Film & TV

Film Review – The Gallows

The ‘found footage’ trope for horror films is rapidly becoming the norm, robbing the genre of much, if not all, its originality. The Gallows tries to do something new with format, but the small change of using not one, but two cameras, has a disappointingly minor effect. Instead, it is the high school setting that really manages to steal the show, turning a low level horror into a fairly chilling thrill.

In 1993, a high school production of ‘The Gallows’ went horribly wrong, resulting in the hanging of its star, Charlie.  20 years later, the school (for some reason) have decided to resurrect the play for another performance. But when four of the students break into the school the night before the production (and obviously end up locked in the building), they quickly realise that the play isn’t the only thing that has returned to the school. Charlie is back and looking for revenge.

The high school setting is used to great effect, and it almost certainly the best thing about the entire film. The unnerving atmosphere of a school at night, with its dimly lit corridors and confusing maze of lockers is an extremely creepy one, which lends itself perfectly to the genre. The dark gym locker room and costume department in particular both offer up tension-filled settings for paranormal events. The auditorium is similarly perfect for spooky occurrences, with a vast array of spotlights and props for the spirit to manipulate to its ghostly hearts content.


Sadly the setting is perhaps the only thing truly worthy of praise. The switching between two cameras (handheld camera and night vision phone camera) starts of as a slightly interesting departure from the form, but quickly becomes boring. The cast manage to capture the am-dram feel of the production well, though this isn’t entirely to their merit. With each of the four leads taking a typical high-school stereotype, there is very little new ground covered by any of the leads, with the jock-turned-drama-student lead Reece (Reece Mishler) seemingly taking a page straight from High School Musical’s book. This being said, Ryan (Ryan Shoos) excels as one of the most annoying and obnoxious jock stereotypes in cinematic history. I for one counted the minutes until his (very predictable) demise.


The predictability of the film is also incredible: there’s an impossible to lock door that suddenly locks, a dismantled set that suddenly reassembles, and a line of dialogue that basically tells a character exactly how he will die. The one unpredictable part is the ridiculous arrival of main stage star Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown) at the school because she ‘saw Ryan’s car’. The other three teens taking a midnight trip to the school is one thing, but Pfifers arrival is nothing short of nonsensical plot writing.

The sequel-baiting end scene seems overly optimistic, with the writers clearly hoping to go the way of the Sinister or Insidious franchises. Though The Gallows has a chilling premise and the school setting is very well used, really adding to the sinister feel of the film, there is sadly little else that makes the film stand out from the heavily oversaturated found footage sub-section of the horror genre.


Henry Stanley

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