Whatever you do, Don’t say his name.
Twenty years after a horrific incident during a High School play, a group of teenagers break into the school during the night in order to destroy the set for the play’s anniversary re-staging – resurrected in a misguided attempt to honour the tragedy.
Travis Cuff and Chris Lofing’s supernatural horror The Gallows has a strong premise. The marketing campaign for the film immediately caught my interest – the angry spirit of a teenaged boy, killed in shocking circumstances who comes back to wreak havoc upon those who disrespect him and his death.
The trailer released for the film, and much of the marketing material, brought to focus one particular scene whereby a girl cries at the camera and is slowly crept up upon by a ghostly figure – before being dragged violently by a noose down a corridor. This trailer is actually one whole scene in the film, and although seemed exciting at the time, pales in scare-factor when sandwiched with the rest of the film.
Found footage horror films are immediately put in the ‘trashy’ category now, as this cinematic technique is vastly overused, and in the least imaginative ways possible. This film, is not an exception to this rule. Most of the footage we see is dark corridors, crying faces and the floor as characters argue amongst themselves. Although the film has a good use of CCTV camera footage, opening with the footage of the horrific accident of twenty years ago, it is not used to full effect.
The same can be said with the use of multiple cameras. We have the main filming camera, but also an iPhone camera with night vision. Most of the action is captured through the main filming camera, but at one point the iPhone camera is used to go back a few minutes in time and show the different perspective of one character after he was locked away from the rest of the group. This was a really interesting concept, but once again was not taken advantage of as it was not used again for the rest of the movie.
The characters shared their actors names, in order to draw the audience into more of a ‘realistic’ and ‘truthful’ film, however this doesn’t really work either because the acting is pretty bad. Lots of panicked screaming and shouting, and talking behind shaky-cam footage, there isn’t much depth to the dialogue or any of the characters. They’re just a group of idiot teenagers being idiots in the dark until they are killed.
As negative as this review has been so far, it’s not all bad. The sound design and timing of action was skilfully done, and due to this tension is built to an all time high at regular intervals. I was tense on the edge of my seat for the majority of the film, as the film makes you wait that extra few seconds before revealing the scare – a technique that leaves you anxious even after the scare has happened.
In addition to this, the use of rope and rope sounds is really effective – there is something about the sound that ropes make that puts me on edge and the film uses this very well. Although the sound is one of the film’s biggest saving graces, it doesn’t quite compensate for the films predictable shot style.
The films’ close is interestingly written. There is the first ending, of which history repeats itself and the twist is discovered, but rather than ending there the film gives us a second ending. The second ending is very Paranormal Activity-esque, with a Police officer discovering the gormless, creepy, possessed looking villains sitting in a Charlie shrine in their house, and is attacked. I found the use of a false ending unpredictable and therefore rounds the film off on a positive note.
The Gallows promises so much and touches upon so many rich and fascinating techniques in its 1 hour 20 running time, but never really follows through with any of them – which is such a shame considering the potential that the storyline could have had, if they’d only tried harder to steer clear of typical, bad teen horror flick stereotypes.