STORY: Four teenagers find themselves trapped in their high school at night. Three of the four had attempted to vandalize the sets of their school play called ‘The Gallows’. A mysterious being – either real or supernatural – tries to prevent them from escaping alive.
REVIEW: The found footage horror sub-genre came into its own back when we saw The Blair Witch Project. There has been a clutch of films since then that serve up cinematic variations of found footage fare. Some work, some don’t. The Gallows lies somewhere in between.
It starts off with a perfectly good premise, with a minimum of jump scares and a location (trapped in a nightmarish high school at night) that sets the scene for an eventful time, to say the least. Ryan (Shoos) is the archetypical school bully-cum-jock who was seemingly born with a camera strapped to his hand and a gift for verbal diarrhea. Neither his girlfriend, cheerleader Cassidy (Gifford) nor his best buddy Reese (Mishler) seems to mind Ryan’s motor-mouth though.
An accident during a staging of the play in 1993 resulted in the death of Charlie (Cross), a student at that time. His then-girlfriend was devastated and the blame was placed on some students rather than a mechanical malfunction. Many years later in 2013, Charlie’s ghost it seems (Or perhaps a flesh-and-blood murderer?) seeks revenge.
There are a few unexplained elements. Given that the camera work is all point-of-view – shot by the students -there are scenes where it appears that some other person is holding the camera. Also, why would the grudge vendetta be passed on to poor Reese? And why doesn’t Ryan keep his mouth shut for a few moments at least, thereby allowing his admittedly more intelligent buddies and girlfriend to get a word in edgeways, even as they are running for their lives? Furthermore, since when are spirits captured on ordinary handheld cameras? That said however, the sound mixing as well as the use of light and shadow in deliberately claustrophobic conditions is effective and serves up a decent amount of scares.