Twenty years after an ill fated performance of a play titled “The Gallows,” a Nebraska high school decides to attempt the play again. This performance will also be plagued by tragedy, but this time it won’t be an accident.
The Gallows is a found footage film that was released in 2015. I’ll be honest. Based on the trailer at the time, I had no interest in heading out to the theater to see it. When I noticed recently that it was available to view on one of my streaming sources, I took a chance on it. What harm could it do?
I very rarely say that a film is a waste of my time, but The Gallows comes very close to that point. The premise behind the movie could have been incredibly interesting. Unfortunately, I felt that both the story and the format of telling the story completely squandered its potential.
The Gallows begins on a high note. We see some nostalgic 1990’s video camera footage of the original performance of “The Gallows,” the performance that will live in infamy through the rest of the plot. The star of this performance, a teen named Charlie, accidentally hangs himself when the prop noose works a little too realistically. Cue the terrified commotion of an audience seeing this scene, and then the movie comes to present day.
It is at this point that the story really lost me. The main characters are unlikeable and very flat. The plot turns into a bit of a High School Musical thing where the main jock has somehow become the lead in the play while simultaneously being a terrible actor and trying to impress his theater crush. His jock friend, who has a convenient knack for filming things, suggests that rather than embarrass himself with his terrible acting, they should destroy the set so the hard work of the theater kids is for naught, and the play won’t happen at all! With the help of the jock friend’s cheerleader girlfriend, they break into the theater at night to destroy the set, only to find that the ghost of Charlie has other plans for them.
If I had made this movie, I personally wouldn’t have gone for the found footage look. The story of a haunted play with a ghost looking for revenge or another chance at the stage could have been really interesting, but the found footage look was too distracting. The scenes were too dark to really see anything that was going on, and the movie relied on too many cliches of the genre to be seen as original. I found myself just waiting for the characters to meet their demise or for the movie to end, whichever came first.
On top of that, The Gallows does a really lousy job of explaining anything. Why did the prop noose malfunction in the first place? Why on Earth would the school try to perform the fatal play a second time? Other than the jock friend’s camera, where do the other camera shots come from? Even the ending of the film leaves more questions than answers. When the movie was over, I felt nothing but disappointment.
Overall, thoughts on The Gallows are pretty negative. The Guardian calls it “depressingly bad.” Peter Sobczynski of Roger Ebert Reviews called it “borderline unwatchable.” Variety called it “forgettable,” and The A.V. Club said that “horror fans [would] choke on [The Gallows‘] found footage cliches.
I definitely would not recommend it. If you’re looking for a found footage film to watch, there are many others that are more worth your time. To keep with the format of my reviews, I’ll include the trailer below. Just know that with the trailer, you’ve seen everything you need to see.