“The Gallows” is a “found footage” movie (strike 1) that begins with a title card assuring us that what we’re about to see is REAL (strike 2). Then it delivers 81 minutes of screaming nonsense filmed by characters who have no reason to continue filming and whose deaths cannot come fast enough (strikes 3-10).
Written and directed by a fantastically lucky duo named Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, the film is set 20 years after a high school student was accidentally killed onstage by the title character of a play called “The Gallows.” The school’s drama department is mounting the show again now, on the exact anniversary, using the same set design, even printing identical programs. Because the school is located in an imaginary world where even one fraction of that would ever, ever be permitted to happen.
The star of the new production, Reese (Reese Mishler), is a jock-turned-actor whose grating best friend, Ryan (Ryan Shoos), follows him around with a camera, mocking his decision to be in the play, urging him to quit, calling him “bro” and “dude” a lot, just generally being the worst. (Ryan’s objections to the dramatic arts have nothing to do with the fact that Reese’s counterpart got killed last time, and everything to do with the fact that acting is so gay.) Improbably, Ryan convinces Reese to sneak into the theater with him the night before the show (there’s no dress rehearsal) to sabotage the set. Ryan’s awful girlfriend, Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), comes along, and they find Reese’s drama-nerd co-star, Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), already there, perhaps wondering why there’s no dress rehearsal when the show that ONCE KILLED A GUY opens tomorrow.
These four, trapped in a darkened high school where the doors won’t open and the power is out, are subsequently the targets of supernatural harassment. They shriek and cry a lot. Some of them get hurt, though this does not stop them from filming everything. When additional backstory is needed, the movie provides a TV that plays a 20-year-old news broadcast out of nowhere, a maneuver that feels more convenient than spooky.
Utterly devoid of scares, creativity, and common sense, this is a bad movie, and the people who made it should feel bad. I’ve seen actual high school plays that were more entertaining.
D (1 hr., 21 min.; )