Film Review – The Gallows
The Gallows is an uninventive found footage horror film whose existence is more insulting to the audience than it is scary. On the 20th anniversary of a tragic accident that led to a student’s death during a performance of a play known as “The Gallows”, the drama class of 2013 are attempting to perform it again without a hitch. When a group of students break into the school after dark so they can sabotage the performance, they realise they aren’t alone and that the play isn’t the only thing that’s been resurrected. Sound scary? It isn’t.
The Gallows is a lesson on how not to make a horror film. Its main characters are tissue paper-thin and wholly unpleasant. Their motive for breaking into the school after dark is so they can sabotage the play and laugh at the drama class’ inevitable disappointment. Instead of empathising with them, we’re positioned to loathe them instead. The cameraman for most of the film is the school’s bully, whose eventual death is seen as a welcome relief rather than tragic.
It makes no effort in terms of originality, scraping the very bottom of the cliché barrel – unlocked doors are suddenly locked, mobile-phones mysteriously lose signal and the classic context setting of a student dying this very night 20 years ago. It even squeezes in a twist ending, which manages to be both lame and nonsensical.
You can always tell how good a horror film is by how heavily they rely on jump-scares. It’s a technique that when used well can knock the viewer dead, but more often than not it’s used as an incredibly obnoxious and lazy crutch to get a cheap reaction from the audience. They’re a lot like that asshole kid from primary school who’d constantly ask, “Are you scared of a butterfly?” before clapping loudly in your face and gloating, “Ha! You blinked!” The Gallows is 80 minutes of nothing but that kid.
The movie plays out like the world’s lamest haunted house. The viewer is led through a series of paint-by-numbers scares –a door slams, disembodied footsteps can be heard, a shadowy figure can be seen in the background– and you can feel the movie constantly prodding your side and obnoxiously whispering, “Are you scared now? Are you? Huh? Huh?” At one point the cast lose their shit over a television playing a spooky video, before realising something even more shocking, that not only are they still using videotapes in 2013 but also there’s no tape in the VHS in the first place.
Found footage horror films are a lot like nu metal: an insufferable sub-genre that by some ridiculous feat of strength managed to claw its way to popularity. While both genres have managed to produce a few gems, the majority of their output is some of the worst films/music of all time, and we should be embarrassed for encouraging them in the first place (for comparison’s sake, The Gallows would be Korn’s The Path Of Totality).
The Gallows is available December 2 on DVD/Blu-ray.