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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Movie Review: #TheGallows

The horror flick The Gallows finds multiple ways to hang itself.

WARNING: Review contains spoilers.

Review by Matt Cummings

The Gallows is bad. I mean awful. But the worst part is that it didn't need to be. The low-low-low budget horror flick has a plot that sounds devilishly delightful, but its execution is hack, its character thoroughly unlikable, and its reveal serving as nothing more than a cheap money grab.

On the 20th anniversary of an accidental hanging during a high school play, the teens Ryan (Ryan Shoos), Reese (Reese Mishler), and Cassidy (Cassidy Grifford) attempt to sabotage a revival of the production, only to learn that Ryan's crush Pfeifer (Pfeifer Ross) and her possessed mother have other plans. Although the three will eventually be hung, they fight to escape while unknowingly harboring the very thing which might have caused the original tragedy in the first place.

Not since 2014's Tusk have I seen a film where I was actually rooting for every character to die. As a film critic, it's an unhealthy feeling to display, but in this case it's justified From the moment these shallow, spiteful characters appear with their nauseating POV cameras, we see the story beats laid out like pigs being led to slaughter. By the time Reese becomes the first victim, we're ready to pull the levers ourselves.

But Gallows is far worse than that: it never rises to its potential, settling instead on cheap 'jump' moments without any attention to why they're happening. The Writing/Directing team of Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing mistreat their $100,000 pet project by ignoring the basic rules for telling an effective story. Take for instance the random reveal, exposing Pfeifer and her mother as co-possession conspirators: we get no indication along the way that either are related, and find ourselves asking why no one in the production didn't recognize the mother from the original production. It is also ridiculous to assume that no one recognized Ryan's father as the original intended victim (who backed out of the lead role at the last minute), as his singular appearance at the beginning of the film is only to warn Ryan to quit the play without telling him why.

Moreover, Gallows survives on placating the audience with shocks rather than building any real and satisfying tension, following a predictable set up of stupid teens hating on one another for reasons we couldn't care less about. If other masterpieces like Sinister and The Conjuring have proven anything, it's that horror films don't need large budgets to work, establishing excellent stories and well-drawn characters instead of popping up things with cheap shocks. Gallows takes a terrific idea and savagely hangs itself with it.

While it will no doubt make its money tenfold over the weekend, that doesn't mean you should see The Gallows. It's by far the worst film of the year, appearing for no other reason than a pure money grab. Regardless of your reasons for wanting to see it, you are advised to steer clear of this disaster, even as a rental. It has no value whatsoever.

The Gallows is rated R for some disturbing violent content and terror and has a runtime of 81 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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