The trailer for The Gallows drove me to watch this movie and subsequently regret every single minute of it. How do I count the ways? There was not much plot to speak of except for the most basic of skeleton-scripts written by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, who also directed the film. I can’t really begrudge them for how much I didn’t enjoy this movie – I’m sure there are lots of people who did – but I just can’t understand why New Line Cinema and Jason Blum, who has produced many successful low-budget horror flicks, backed this idea.
The general plot is set in 1993: a high school puts on a production of a fictional play called The Gallows. The kid who is playing the hangman, Charlie, accidentally gets killed in the noose on stage during a live performance, and then 22 years later, kids at the same school want to put the play on again. This premise by itself isn’t bad, but there were so many factors that made this movie a struggle to get through.
With a horror plot this simple, a lot of fun can be had developing the characters; alas, none was taken. The entire film is shot handheld style, and the character holding the camera, Ryan, is unfortunately the loudest and most annoying of the whole cast. A classic 80s jock stereotype smushed into a 2015 hipster body does not an interesting or likable character make. His friend, the quiet and reserved Reese, is going to be in the new production and finds this entirely unacceptable, because “drama nerds don’t get laid.” Reese has an obvious crush on the leading lady in the play, Pfeifer, who also happens to be the most enthusiastic about putting on this show.
After what seemed like endless preamble, Ryan, Reese, Pfeifer, and their pal Cassidy all get locked in the school at night by what can only be Charlie’s ghost. There are a few Paranormal Activity gags like things moving by themselves and people being suddenly yanked out of frame and throughout it all, I failed to see why I should care about any of this. Shockingly, Reese had something to do with Charlie’s death all those years ago; it turns out his father was supposed to harness Charlie into the noose rig and skipped the play. Therefore, he was indirectly responsible for Charlie’s death. Pfeifer, as it happens, is the daughter of Charlie’s girlfriend at the time and has set up this whole play as a way for her “ghost dad” to get revenge.