I’m on shitty-looking (and sometimes actually shitty) horror movie patrol this summer (THANKS
TK OBAMA), which means I had to see The Gallows, about a quartet of teenage idiots who break into their school one night and get haunted by the ghost of some kid who died in a school play 25 years ago.
Do I need to tell you it’s bad? Ugh. Really?
Yeah, I guess I do, because Unfriended surprised me by not sucking. The Gallows was not so lucky. Like Unfriended, The Gallows is found footage, but while the former movie did something inventive with the genre (taking place entirely on a computer screen), The Gallows just has teenagers running around for a much-longer-than-it-seems 81 minutes with cameras. I’m not one of those people who hates shaky cam on general principle, but Jesus grizzly fuck, this movie gave me a headache.
You know the common criticism of shaky cam, that things tend to be far too well-framed, and that if we were really watching found footage there would be a lot more shots of people’s feet? Yeah. Turns out, when that happens, it’s obnoxious. Add to that the fact that the bulk of the movie takes place in a building where the power’s out, so the only illumination comes from either the built-in light on a character’s camera or the night vision app on his phone, and you have a film the visual style of which was determined to piss me off within the first 30 minutes.
The reason it wasn’t shorter than 30 minutes is that this movie takes way too long to get going, especially considering the characters and plot are so basic. There are four major players: Blonde Girl (cheerleader!), Brunette Girl (intellectual theatre geek!), Surprisingly Sensitive Dude, and his best friend Asshole Bro. Brunette Girl an Surprisingly Sensitive Dude are the leads in a school play called The Gallows, which is locally famous for the fact that one of its actors accidentally hanged himself during a production 25 years ago. The school decides to put it on again, because this is a horror movie and people are dumb. Asshole Bro and Blonde Girl convince Surprisingly Sensitive Dude to break into the school and wreck the set the night before the play as part of a ploy to get closer to Brunette Girl… again, because this is a horror movie and people are dumb. That wouldn’t even work, even if Brunette Girl didn’t catch them in the act.
Anyway, shit happens, and it’s kind of scary, a vaguely competently established sense of creeping dread augmented by good ol’ jump scares. That elevates The Gallows above VOD-level, but just barely. The ending is a let-down, with all attempts at plot twists falling flat. Kathie Lee Gifford’s daughter plays Blonde Girl, and she’s OK. Did you know Kathie Lee named her daughter Cassidy? That’s basically the same name! It’s like Selina Catherine Meyer on Veep naming her daughter Catherine Selina. That is my favorite part of The Gallows.
So far this summer’s count of horror movies that I thought would suck and did (Insidious: Chapter 3, The Gallows) is tied with its count of horror movies that I thought would suck and didn’t (Unfriended, Poltergeist). Next month’s Sinister 2 will be the tie-breaker. It can’t be as bad as the next movie I’m reviewing, which is Pixels. May God have mercy on my soul.