The Gallows will probably appeal to high schoolers at a sleepover. For the rest of us, a rewatch of The Blair Witch Project will have to suffice, says Paloma Sharma.
In 1993, the students of Beatrice High performed a play called The Gallows.
In the final scene, Charlie Grimille, who plays the protagonist, climbs onto a prop of the gallows, as dictated by the script. However, when he puts the hangman's noose around his neck, Charlie accidentally ends up hanging to death on stage, in front of the audience.
The play remained incomplete.
Since then, the school's drama department has never performed another redention of it. Until now.
In 2013, students of Beatrice High attempt to perform The Gallows as a tribute on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. Predictably, their naïvety lands them in a good amount of trouble.
Football star Reese (Reese Mishler) takes up drama to impress theatre nerd Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), except that he just cannot act. He considers dropping out but does not want to let Pfeifer down, which is what will happen even if he does go on stay.
Reese's jock buddy Ryan (Ryan Shoos), a bratty popular kid, comes up with the idea of sneaking into school and destroying the set so that neither will Reese have to opt out of performing nor will he have to disappoint the girl he has a crush on.
Reese, Ryan and Ryan's cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) break into the school at night in an attempt to vandalise the set only to run into Pfiefer there. The four end up getting locked inside the school. It isn't long before they realise that they aren't alone.
For a film that follows the found footage format, The Gallows rests on an extremely shaky premise. It is hardly believeable that a school would allowa band of misguided teenagers to perform a play that is widely believed to be cursed. Or that a police officer would go into a suspected crime scene with a camera in his hands instead of a gun.
The Gallows is lined with nonsensical plot points that are too far fetched to fit into the found footage genre. While it is difficult to make a film about the supernatural and keep it close to reality at the same time, it must be understood that the more the audience connects to the film, the more afraid they will feel; and The Gallows, unfortunately, fails to engage the audience beyond a certain point.
The film begins well enough, the dread begins to creep up on you and then it goes ahead to reveal the shadow that is haunting the four protagonists. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what will happen after that. The Gallows goes from intriguing to predictable in a matter of seconds.
Despite featuring mediocre performances from Shoos, Mishler, Brown and Gifford, the story begins to drag between the first terrific 10 minutes and the last, equally terrific 10 minutes.
Co-writers and directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing pay more attention to tricks meant to shock rather than building an environment that conveys the urgency of the protagonists' situation.
Also, and this is just a personal hunch, the story that Cluff and Lofing wanted to tell probably could have been told better were The Gallows not a found footage film. It is too obvious in its scare tactics to fit into the given format.
In its present form, the number of cameras and trying to track which device belongs to whom distracts the audience from the feeling of fear.
The Gallows will probably appeal to high schoolers at a sleepover. For the rest of us, a rewatch of The Blair Witch Project will have to suffice.