Another entry into the found footage genre follows the same basic tropes that have come before.
Even since the inauguration of the indie horror genre with 1999’s The Blair Witch Project and recent resurgence with the success of Paranormal Activity (2007), the found footage film has somehow found its place in contemporary cinema.
The Gallows (2015), the latest entry in said genre, tells the story of a group of high school students who decide to resurrect a school play known as “The Gallows”, a production of which had gruesome consequences 20 years earlier when an actor was accidently hung during the performance. Unfortunately the male lead Reese (Reese Mishler), who is only taking part to impress female lead Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), is worried he’ll underperform on the night, so along with best friend Ryan (Ryan Shoos) and cheerleader Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) they decide to break into the school and sabotage the production before opening night. Without giving too much away, the three students, along with the introduction of female lead Pfeifer, begin to encounter supernatural forces as the spirit of “Charlie”, the actor who died 20 years earlier, begins to stalk and kill the characters one by one.
One of the biggest issues with The Gallows is the sheer lack of originality. The genre may well of once courted its experimental nature and uniqueness to other filmmaking techniques, but nowadays it’s simply worrying to think that a small budget and shocking cinematography can lead to a mainstream wide release in cinema.
However I feel my dismay for the film was preordained before even stepping foot in the cinema. The TV Spot for the film name-dropped some of the biggest villains in Horror, “Jason had his machete…Freddy had his glove…” before telling us “Charlie has his noose.” This blatant attempt to try and compare The Gallows to such Horror powerhouses as Friday The 13th (1980) or Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is a true testament to how far gone the horror genre has fallen.
But I digress; the fault here is not at the hands of The Gallows filmmakers, but at the production company ‘Blumhouse Productions’ who funded the film. Their plan to independently produce films then widely release them through the studio system has had both positive and negative effects on the genre. They’ve been behind the most successful and memorable horror movies of the last decade, Paranormal Activity (2007), Insidious (2011), Sinister (2012) and The Purge (2013), yet they continue to churn out these cheap, forgettable pictures such as The Gallows (2015), Ouija (2014) and The Bay (2012).
Maybe if Jason Blum, the apparent puppeteer of contemporary Horror, focused more on a worthwhile story, we could yet find ourselves our own Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kruger of the 21st century.
Director: Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing
Cast: Pfeifer Brown, Reese Mishler, Ryan Shoos and Cassidy Gifford
Running Time: 80 Minutes
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