Do not go see The Gallows in a movie theater. Watch it in the comfort of your own home, with lots of booze and snacks. In fact, it’s totally fine if you don’t watch it at all. Unlike The Babadook, It Follows, The Conjuring, or even any of the Insidious films (I love all of them dearly so yes, watch the sequels too), you won’t be missing out on much. The Gallows is the same sophomoric shitty horror film you used to be able to catch on Fear Net. There is absolutely nothing original or creative about it. For a horror junkie like me, that’s okay. I just need something to fill my incredibly lame addiction to being scared, but this is not for people who enjoy doing things that are actually meaningful. Go watch As Above So Below instead.
Or, do what I do, and go watch the Blair Witch Project again because we have yet to make a found footage horror movie as good as that. Yeah, I really enjoyed The Sacrament and VHS and all that kind of stuff too, but lets be real, it’s not quite the same. Nothing feels as vital, as real, or even as well put together as The Blair Witch Project. Yes, their marketing was on point, but as someone who watched the movie years later and knew nothing about the marketing machine that surrounded it, Blair Witch is a good fucking movie. Everything Blair Witch did right, from having characters that seemed real, to containing actual subtle scares, to even trying to frame their shots, The Gallows did not even attempt to do. Everything that’s wrong with horror in the past five years is crammed into this movie. It’s that sad.
The plot of The Gallows isn’t really important. It’s just a vehicle to scare 14 year olds. But, since I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t clue you in, it’s basically about a bunch of highs chool students putting on a cursed play. This is a play where someone had died performing (under mysterious circumstances, naturally) when all their parents were in school. Basically, the plan is that they are going to revive the play, no one will die, and everything is going to be great.
Before they get to any of the scary bits (there are not actual scary bits, FYI), we learn that there are a couple jocks in drama class: Reese, who is super into the play because he has a crush on one of the drama nerds, Ryan, another jock who doesn’t care because he’s literally too cool for school. Reese is set to play the leading man, but he’s a terrible actor. He can’t remember his lines, he can’t follow cues. He’s a terrible choice for leading man. Since Ryan (who is supposedly the audience stand in for most of the film) is a bad friend, he convinces Reese to sneak into the theater the night before the play and tear the set down so the performance cannot continue. I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Reese, Ryan, and Ryan’s cheerleader girlfriend, start to tear shit up, then they hear scary noises and get freaked out. Eventually they are joined by Reese’ crush, the drama nerd Pfeifer, and hoo-boy shit really gets out of hand.
When I say “out of hand” I don’t mean scary, because nothing scary happens during The Gallows. There are loud noises. There are blurry figures. There is a man wearing a burlap sack over his face. None of it is scary. Sure, the loud noises might make you jump, but that’s not what it means to be scared. Being scared is feeling like you are going to pee yourself because there are stick figures made out of actual stick dangling from every tree in sight. Being scared is having nightmares about a pop up children’s book. Scaring people, really scaring them, takes time and it takes skill. If you want to scare people, you have to try. The Gallows never tried even once.
Not to say there is nothing good about this movie. There were a few times that I laughed. Which, is not necessarily the goal in a horror movie, but I’m not going to turn down the few moments I enjoyed myself. At one point in the film, the “narrator” switches and that was kind of neat. Usually found footage movies don’t change the narrator / main character / person who holds the camera. Also, I guess it was so poorly shot that it crossed the line into realistic. Usually during found footage movies, there is an attempt at some sort of coherent cinematography, but there were whole scenes during The Gallows were all you can see are people’s feet. If teenagers were actually running around a haunted theater, they wouldn’t care about framing their shots correctly. That kind of makes sense, I guess.
I don’t want to spoil the end of the movie, and I might be reaching a little bit, but a part of the reason I was so bothered by The Gallows is because horror really seems like it’s on an upswing. Not only have their been great horror films in the last couple years, we’re seeing a lot women driven horror films, where the female leads are more complex and interesting than your average scream queen (or even final girl). So, it’s even more disappointing when a big studio decides to spend money making a terrible movie whose conclusion is basically, “Look at these crazy bitches!”
If, for some strange reason, you are being dragged to The Gallows, or if you’re like me and you need to consume every horror movie ever, make sure you follow these instructions: 1. Drink as many gin and tonics necessary to make yourself feel good about life 2. Drink a few more 3. Go see it 4. Sneak in more booze. It’s the only way you’re going to have a good time.