views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Gallows (15)
Cineworld, Haymarket
9th July 2015


We've all done crazy stupid things for love. Reese Houser (Reese Mishler) has a crush on aspiring actress Pfeifer Ross (Pfeifer Brown) so big that he quits the football team and signs up for the lead role in a play he doesn't really want to be a part of, purely because Pfeifer is the leading lady in it. Trouble is, Reese isn't very talented and Pfeifer hasn't shown any romantic interest in him. Reese's friend Ryan Shoos (Ryan Shoos) has been videoing proceedings as some supposed class project and comes to his rescue with a foolproof plan of - wait for it - trashing Pfeifer's set. If the show can't go on, Reese can't embarrass himself on stage, and well, someone's got to be a shoulder to cry on for what will presumably be a thoroughly upset Pfiefer. Gen-i-us. Cheerleader Cassidy Spilker (Cassidy Gifford) apparently has nothing better to do, so she comes along for a spot of after-hours vandalism purely for the funsies.

Buddies Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff have written and directed The Gallows together. Now, I've often been out with a friend and had "the world's best idea" and realised in the cold light of the morning, it wasn't actually very good. The closest Lofing and Cluff get to that level of awareness is plonking Cluff in the film as teacher Mr Schwendiman to try to bush over one of the plot's biggest problems. Given the special type of superstition which attaches itself to acting, and the overprotectiveness of many high school children's parents, it's surprising that the am-dram play within a film was even staged back in 1993. It's a script with a set of gallows in it. Gallows. It's thoroughly unbelievable that following Charlie Grimmle actually being hanged in front of his parents and classmates that some 20 years later, any other mums and dads would allow a second run of the same production. It just wouldn't happen.

These issues are compounded by the medium used. A group of wannabe filmmakers heading to the wildness to retrace the steps of local myth is a plausible plot outline for a found footage film. There's a reason given for why they're videoing everything, and this is why The Blair Witch Project works. Far less credible is someone filming himself and his little friends committing a crime. Admittedly Ryan is made out to be an odious, thoughtless jock, but you do find yourself thinking that even someone with such low emotional IQ wouldn't be dumb enough to capture himself breaking and entering on tape.

Teacher's pet Pfiefer is as annoyingly eager as Ryan is annoyingly dumb, which is something positive about the characterisation. Not liking them at least means we have some kind of emotional reaction. With all the main characters sharing the same name as their actor counterparts, there's something almost Shakespearean about Reese acting badly Reese acting badly. He cuts a mean rugged jaw, however is too wooden for us to give a damn about. As for Cassidy, she simply makes up the numbers and cries a lot.

Whilst few horror films have a particularly complicated or intelligent storyline, it's disappointingly easy to guess every next move and in fact, to work out the ending so early on. The climax doesn't have to be believable with this genre, but it should come as a shock, with plenty of twists along the way. This lack of imagination isn't even made up by any effective jumpscares - I suppose it's hard to frighten an audience who know exactly what's coming next. There's not even any creativity in the deaths - the same thing happens over and over. The writing is plain lazy.

It's hard to suggest any purpose for The Gallows other than a drinking game. Sometimes a bad movie is strangely enjoyable, but this one isn't so. Somehow I don't think it will be long before The Gallows kicks the bucket and ends up in the DVD bargain bin.

The Gallows was released in the UK on 17th July 2015.

Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly, Bakerloo)

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