The Gallows – 2015
Writers and Directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing
Starring Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Jesse Cross, Alexis Schneider
The thing about these found footage films is that if they had any sort of realism to them, the camera would drop at the first sign of trouble. That never happens here, but there are times where the lens points to the floor while they are running. If Cluff or Lofing were better film makers, they might find a way to make this somewhat intriguing. Instead, we get several useless segments that are the closest thing The Gallows ever comes to being realistic.
Lofing and Cluff have a tight, concentric circle of a story within the confines of 81 minutes. In following Ebert’s Law of Economy of Characters, there is no room in the budget of their film to waste an introduction, an accreditation, or even a seat in the auditorium. When one keeps this fact in their mind, watching a film like this becomes almost unbearable. There is nowhere for the mind to go. No place to hop in and enjoy the ride. At this point we are left searching for other aspects.
One thing that would help is if the acting is acceptable. Starting with the guy holding the camera, Ryan Shoos gets the award for most guy holding the camera since T.J. Miller in Cloverfield. His performance is so bad it comes across as an alien being doing its best impression of a High School jock. This guy makes Biff Tannen look like Bill Shakespeare. I haven’t seen any of Shoos’ earlier work, but this doesn’t make me want to see that or anything in the future. Which means he should be a sidekick in the next Michael Bay film. His girlfriend is played by Cassidy Gifford. I will mention nothing about her heritage here, but I can say she does not add nor does she detract from the proceedings. She does what the script asks of her, unfortunately.
Mishler does not stand out in any way. Here that would be a benefit, almost, were it not for the fact that he is one of the leads. The other, Pfeifer, is attractive and is the very essence of a high school drama junkie nerd. There is not enough of her in the film, until the end.
The film quality – absent any of the directorial skill or nuance of better low-budget films like, It Follows – has no hold on the viewer, except for perhaps two sequences. One, where a sound of footsteps comes from above, comes to no logical climax, making everything less. The other is a pranking sequence involving a geek that would have been awesome, if, you know, the ropes moving that way lead to anything. No need to explain it further. Not like I am giving anything away.
It’s an irony that in the era of digital filmmaking we have fallen into a dearth of films all of the same genre. Everyone carries a camera in Horror these days, and the effect is many bad camera angles, lots of disconnected noise and no one has a SAG card. It’s enough to make one wish we could go back to The Blair Witch Project and unwatch it. I still would watch the Paranormal Activity series, though. Well, not the 3rd one. Or the 4th. Might just skip The Marked Ones, too. The last one (we can hope) looks good, though.
(* out of *****)