Movie review: The Gallows (2015)

The Gallows (2015)

Starring: Cassidy Gifford, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Reese Mishler, Travis Cluff, Price T. Morgan
Writer/Director: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
Produced companies: Blumhouse Productions, Management 360, New Line Cinema
Distributor: Warner Bros. (2015) (USA) (theatrical)
Rated R for disturbing violence and terror

(info courtesy of imdb)

Standard Disclaimer: If you don’t want to be even a tiny bit spoiled: I saw it, I liked it and you’ll probably like it to. Now stop reading because I may have revealed plot points and spoilers.

Seriously, the review is starting.

Last chance …

(P.S. it’s not the destination, but the journey, Whiner)

I get screening passes from a variety of places which is awesome because I’m not motivated enough to see movies in theaters very often. I was sent these passes from Warner Bros and when personally invited to a horror movie by a studio, I don’t ever say no.

Going in I knew nothing about the film, except the semi-failed viral campaign involving an “ancient” Mexican demon named “Charlie” (so much wrong with that phrase alone), a piece of paper and a pencil. Remember, you could ask this Mexican demon any yes/no question and it would let you film it for YouTube so people could make fun of you.

Other than that, I’m not big on movie teasers and I don’t keep up with upcoming releases anymore. I also rather like going into a movie not knowing what I’m in for, other than a thrill ride and some chuckles. It lowers expectations and I’m less likely to hate it.

That said, I didn’t hate this movie. It was fun, and ridiculous, and for the 82-minute runtime, I was entertained.

The Gallows bases its premise on theater geek superstitions, a tragic accident, and classic high school tomfoolery that reminds you that nothing has changed since you wer in high school, except now everyone films what they do because Millennials. That automatically makes this a found footage film, which we claim to all be sick of, and yet we still go see because just maybe we’ll see something different.

In 1993, during the Beatrice High School Stage Production of The Gallows (apparently a period piece about hanging people), a student is accidentally hung. No one ever brings it up again. Ever. Twenty years later, a student-lead revival brings the play back, to honor of the 1993 cast. Reese, football jock with clearly no future in acting stars opposite future thespian, Pfeifer and while they have zero chemistry, Reese wants to do this because love. Pfeifer wants to do this because theater!

Ryan is Reese’s bff, and an all around stain on humanity. He hates theater people (likely a compensation issue due to steroid abuse) but because high school kids lack extracurricular activities in small towns like Beatrice, he’s in the booth filming, likely for the DVD extras and outakes sure to be on a Theater Club fundraiser. Ryan is the selfish soul-crushing friend we all had in high school, the one who’d sooner sabotage budding relationships because of sharing issues. It’s his idea to strike the set the night before the big opening so the show can’t go on.

(Now, why he thought that taking down the only piece of equipment in a high school play would cause the play to never go on is the kind of short-sighted thinking only a high schooler could come up with.)

Along for the ride is Cassidy, the real life daughter of Kathi Lee Gifford, but don’t let that make you think you have to like her character, because you don’t this bubbly, Mean Girl cheerleader has zero redeemable qualities. Zero. Movie Cassidy is insufferable and it would be nice if filmmakers started giving us characters we could cheer for again. With the cast rounded out, within the first 10 minutes you know exactly who’s going to die and you can’t wait to watch. You  honestly hate them that much.

While some might think pinning Victim Badges so soon is showing all the cards, it’s a decent call back to Hitchcock’s Bomb Under The Table. You see the bomb and you know it’s going to go off – you just don’t know when.

No matter how many times you see this in the trailer, it's still jarring
No matter how many times you see this in the trailer, it’s still jarring.

I’m not going to lie – this movie had some moments that were far too goofy and decidedly off the wall, and there wasn’t a script so much as dialog direction (I really hate that), but the tension was good and the panic level was high. There are lots of jump scares due to POV shooting and the camera work shows a lot of shoes, but I really liked the way this movie took advantage of the darkness, the minimal lighting, and practical effects.

I do love practical effects.

You’ll have questions when you walk out and not everything was explained. You may even argue in on the car ride home about certain motivations and backstory, but over all I don’t think you’ll hate it.

The theater showing the screening had some technical issues at the beginning, like not having sound for the first 3 minutes of the film (you know, the part establishing plot points), and we wondered if that was part of the movie. I still say it was just a bad screening on Trainee Night and I wish they’d just started over once they realized the movie started, the lights hadn’t gone down and the speakers were still playing adult contemporary instead of the actual movie. If you saw the screening Wednesday July 8 it at the Birmingham 8, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this).

1 – Wow Factor – Pleasantly surprised. Some eye rolling moments and a few c’mons
2 – Wander Lust – None; being in a theater kills the ability to wander, but had I been home, I may have gotten up for food.
3 – Rewind – There were no blink and you’ll miss them moments, it was a slow climb to the top before the drop
4 – Recommend – Yes, for a matinee show or after drinks. The less you think about what’s happening, the better
5 – Movie Math – Prom Night + Blair Witch = The Gallows
6 – Personal Movie rating (scale of 1-5 with one being Abysmal and 5 being “Start A religion”) – 3.75

Did you see the Gallows? How does my movie math hold up? Is there a better equation? Tell me in the comments!

Photos courtesy of The Gallows tumblr page and all rights belong to them.