The vogue for found footage, teen friendly horror has been a mainstay of the horror genre ever since Blair Witch burst into the zeitgeist, and over the years, with the likes of the Paranormal Activity series, has made more money but lost a lot of the shock of the new that made it so recognisable. This is a problem that is perfectly embodied in the latest found footage horror to hit cinemas, The Gallows, a film that attempts to play the conventions that define this niche genre…but forgetting the vital creativity that is necessary to elevate it above the rest of the pack.

Following a group of students whose fates have become entwined with those of their high school performance of The Gallows, a play with a tragic history; the film is captured in the found footage style, using the teen’s various camera devices to capture their terror as they find themselves trapped in the school through the night. While they hunt for a way out, they soon realise a malevolent presence is pursuing them with an unnatural thirst for revenge. If this sounds like pretty much every generic teen horror for the last 30 years, you’d be absolutely correct in your assumption. The characters are clichés to the point of parody (Jock who doesn’t want to be a Jock, blonde cheerleader, class clown, drama geek) and it is genuinely tough to conjure any degree of sympathy to care about their plight. We’ve followed these characters before, and we know how this will end for them. Of course you can argue there is a pleasure in the predictable formula, but in truth, this particular narrative lacks neither a real hook for the audience to invest in, or the actions of the characters makes any logical sense at points, with the central drive of the villain and the ultimate revelations simply not satisfying.

It is clear the filmmakers are trying to use the found footage style in create an enhanced sense of intensity, and to draw the audience immediately into the situation with association to the moment. However, this choice backfires and instead is almost detaching. Rather than create a heightened reality, the implausibility of the camera placement and the characters’ engagement with the devices as a sort of expositional device is so contrived that it reinforces the sense of cliché and restricts engagement with the events on screen. In fact, the only moment that feels genuine in the film is a sequence where the two male leads, Ryan and Reece, argue and as it becomes more heightened, the camera’s view drops to that of the floor, only capturing their feet; this is the kind of honesty that is sorely lacking in the rest of the film.

The Gallows has sold itself upon the idea of its central villain, Charlie Grimille, as being a new horror icon in the mould of the likes of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. However, the reality is…not only is the threat of Charlie absolutely tame, there is not enough of the character within the film itself to make anything close lasting impression. When you do see Charlie, his costume design, like the rest of the film itself, is uninspired, looking like a cheap kids Halloween costume rather than eliciting any real fear, or displaying any new ideas. If they are trying to create a franchise around a new horror icon, Charlie is most certainly not the fearsome figure to build the future of horror cinema around.

Ultimately, The Gallows suffers because of its absolute lack of originality. It plays the horror formula like painting by numbers, and as a result all that exists is a pale imitation of other more inspired works. You get the feeling that there is a film that is lost within all the contrived elements on screen and the desperation to be something for generic teen market, and even something as simple as changing the visual style could have created an entirely different mood to lift the film beyond mediocracy. The Gallows is formulaic horror that tries to entertain and jolt, but lacks the critical personality and creativity to escape the noose it puts around its own neck.Movie

Movie Review: The Gallows
2.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk