The Gallows (2015)

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School can be a scary place.  In recent years, it’s become a dangerous one too.  Now imagine it at night, dark and empty.  Well, maybe not so empty.

Story (2/5)The Gallows takes place twenty years after an accident on stage took the life of a drama student named Charlie.  Sadly, Charlie wasn’t supposed to be in the role that caused his death.  He was instead the understudy of the lead who backed out at the last moment.

Two decades after that tragic event, the school’s drama department decides to perform The Gallows once more, due in part by the efforts of their female lead Pfeifer Ross (Pfiefer Brown).  Meanwhile, we learn that the new male lead Reese Houser (Reese Mishler) has joined the play because of his interest in Pfiefer.

Unfortunately, his friend Ryan (Ryan Shoos) convinces Reese that he will only embarrass himself on stage and upset Pfeifer.  So Ryan proposes a plan to prevent the play from happening.  He, his girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), and Reese plan to destroy the set before opening night.  But in the process, they run in to Pfiefer.  And then they run into Charlie, who decides to take his anger out on the intruders.

Characters (3/5) – Reese Mishler plays a likable football player trying to impress a girl outside his social circle.  His decision to join drama class is unpopular with his friends and his father.  But surprisingly, he sticks with his decision and even plans to quit the football team to focus on the play.  Mishler does a good job of creating a character that you really want to root for.

His character is quite different from his friend Ryan, who is your typical class-clown bully.  He insults the students in drama and spends a lot of time trying to badger Reese into ditching the play.  He even gets quite the rivalry going between himself and the student stage manager (Price T. Morgan).  Like Mishler, Shoos puts in a great performance.

Pfeifer Brown puts in a good showing as well.  Whether she is doing her lines for the movie or the lines from the play-within-the-play, you are always convinced that Brown is fully in character.  This turns out to be more important that you might realize.

[Spoiler Alert]
Also doing a great job with her role is Cassidy Gifford.  You don’t really get to know her character well, but her death scene (as seen in the trailers) is mesmerizing.  Gifford manages to hold your attention and comes off convincingly scared as she is dragged off into the darkness by a hangman’s noose.
[End Spoiler Alert]

Direction (2/5) – Directing this film are Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing (both of whom wrote the story and handled its visual effects).  You might notice that Cluff also plays the drama teacher Mr. Schwendiman, yet one of many Meta things about this movie.  Lofing meanwhile took on the film editing duties.

I really loved the cinematography though.  The camera angles were the best I’ve seen in a found footage film yet.  They actually look like angles that would have been recorded.  When people have one-on-one conversations, they don’t talk into a camera.  This movie actually showed the camera being pointed down and to the side of the person.  Awesome!

Execution (3/5) – I usually hate found footage films, but The Gallows manages to work around my issues with them.  The camera angles are one example of this.

But I also find myself hating when found footage films have scenes clearly not from found recordings.  For example, showing characters walking into places without cameras present?  Everything that happens in this movie, believable happens in the presence of a recording device.

And how many times in a found footage film have you asked, “Why would they be recording themselves there?”  Be honest, how often to you record everything?  When I use my camera, I only record when I’m I think I’m going to record something cool.  At least with this film, it makes sense that the cameras would be on, because they were using them for light and night vision.

Which brings me to another thing that I don’t like about found footage films.  I hate when camera seem to have unlimited film and battery life.  This movie actually showed the camera run out of battery life.  Makes sense considering how much they were using the light on it.

Other than that, the music score by Zach Leemon was great.  The makeup was wonderful too, especially the rope burn on Cassidy.

Entertainment (2/5) – The movie could have been more entertaining though.  I personally would have liked there to be a deeper mystery.  Maybe even keep that audience wondering if Charlie’s attacks were actually ghostly or just the product of some crazy individual.  There were several opportunities to explore this with different characters, but we were instead left with a basic haunting story about revenge.

Even the surprise twist wasn’t that impactful.  In fact, I suspect that you will figure everything out ten minutes before the reveal.

Overall – I give this film a 2.4 bow ties out of 5.  I found it to be a solid movie with some replay value.  Much of this probably comes from my excitement at finding a found footage film that I didn’t hate. And admittedly, this movie could have better, but it was certainly worth the price of admittance for me.

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