On Second Thought: “The Gallows”

Found footage and horror are clearly not a match made in anything. Try as so many people do, these two genres can’t actually come off as anything more than irritating. With so many other terrible found footage horror films out there, you’d think writers and directors would stop making these films. Granted, for that to happen, the world would need to rid itself of idiot filmgoers. Sadly, that’s about as likely as a good found footage anything.

The Warner Bros. Pictures film “The Gallows”, is a steaming pile of shit, which I knew, but now really know as I actually watched every minute of this dreadful film.

This “horror” film stars Reese Mishler (“Youthful Daze”, “Her Name is Leah (Short 2014)”), Pfeifer Brown (“Molly’s Method (Short 2015)”, “Big Time Rush”), Ryan Shoos (“Bastard”, “As Night Comes”), and Cassidy Gifford (“Caged No More”, “God’s Not Dead”).

The film was written and directed by Chris Lofing (“The Boys Are Back in Town (Short 2012)”, “Kid HULK (Short 2011)”) and Travis Cluff (“Gold Fools”, “Kid HULK (Short 2011)”).

The film originally opened on July 10, 2015

After barely paying attention the first time I saw this, and hating the minutes that I did catch, I’m not sure what really motivated me to watch this film. I knew it was bad, but I pressed play anyway. If getting a sense of what this film was like was my primary goal, I dare say I needed to only consult my notes from the first time. Perhaps that wasn’t enough. I knew I hated this film, but couldn’t fully bring myself to understanding why. Seeing my own handwriting didn’t really, or fully, convey the emotions I felt whilst watching this film. So, maybe I simply needed something to be angry about, which I also knew would fuel my desire to write about this horrible, horrible film. If that’s what it was, then it definitely did the trick.

One thing notes can do is prepare you for what’s to come. What they can’t do, as I discovered, is make the blow dealt by the film any easier to take. This most definitely applies to the types of characters that would be inhabiting this world, which I chose to spend roughly 80 minutes in. There is nothing to like about these characters. I’ve seen Lifetime Original Movies have more interesting characters than this. There was truly never a reason to give any fucks about them whatsoever. If you were to pay me, I still wouldn’t have any fucks to give. If anything, these characters are just as bland and cliché as the last group of characters you saw in a found footage horror film. The only difference, most likely, is that you probably wouldn’t find each one to be an annoying asshole. That’s what they were, and when it came time for them to be stalked and killed, I once again couldn’t care at all. In some ways, the actions that motivated these idiots, are the exact ones that had me thinking they deserved their fates.

Since I’ve already been griping about this from the beginning, I see no point in delaying further, at least for a few sentences. I also find that it informs a lot of the remaining things I’ll talk about.

I fucking hate the use of found footage. It so seldom proves worth it, and nowadays it’s basically being recycled in every other film, especially horror films. There’s nothing to do with it that makes using this approach to storytelling a good idea. The moment any producer, or studio head hears that the film is going to be a found footage (insert genre here), they should just say no. More likely than not, someone else has already told this story, and also done it infinitely better, which is really not a hard bar to pass. Seriously, way to ruin a good thing. In this case, the writers and directors, and probably producers, basically anyone involved, made sure to tell a story using this technique, but do it in the most boring of ways. I don’t even think they tried. This film doesn’t look like any effort, for anything, was attempted. I’m not saying that even if this film hadn’t been found footage it would’ve been good, but it probably would’ve been received a hell of a lot better.

One thing that could’ve been achieved, if even attempted, is the scaring of audience members who turned up for this exact reason. To say that they were (if these are the smart audience members) severely letdown, is more than an understatement. It’s because of this aspect of the film, that I’m trying to figure out how I even thought watching this was a good idea. Something, maybe the trailer?, or someone, got it into my head that this film would be worth it. I was coming off of several other great horror films, so maybe this is part of the reason I wanted to see this. Either way, I wasn’t scared. Not one bit. Mind you, this time around, I was just amped up to be pissed off. I knew it wasn’t scary, and yet, I tried to go in like a first timer. It didn’t work. There was nothing scary. No build up, nothing. It dragged. Oh my god did this film drag. And by the time there was supposed to be anything remotely creepy or unnerving, I didn’t give a shit. I was bored. Even the damn jump scares did nothing. Well, they further irritated me, but that’s to be expected when the scares aren’t earned or done slightly well. They were just lazy. I wanted, more than the characters in this film, to get out of this stupid situation I found myself in.

Some of this, along with the terrible execution of the found footage style, I blame on the time. No, not the runtime itself, as that wasn’t very long, and you’d think a much shorter film wouldn’t annoy you so much and easily. No, this has to do with how much time was wasted on pointless character things. What Lofing and Cluff may have thought was character development, or something that resembled that, that the audience would buy, wasn’t even close to that. No, it was just pointless activities in the mundane lives of teenagers in some town you’ve never even heard of. As I said above, any of the bits of character that’s supposed to make them likable, or even relatable, aren’t. They just show how obnoxious these characters are, thus making the time you spend with them before the “horror” bits of the film and even during, which makes up a good 30 minutes at least, utterly wasted. Adding this wasted time and badly executed found footage style together certainly doesn’t make it easy for the not so scary scares to be effective. Which then ultimately makes for one bad film experience and film altogether.

One thing I want to quickly throw out there, as it hurts this film even more, and makes the decision to opt for a found footage look even more baffling, is that this film lacked logic. That really sums up this point. Nowhere in this film was there any logic. This in turn leads to all the other bad elements of this film. The one thing about the found footage sub-genre, which is seldom done well, is that for it to be even slightly believable, not to mention worth it, is there needs to be a good reason for the characters to be constantly recording shit, that in all likelihood, you wouldn’t be caught dead doing. I mean, I don’t even know how parents use to capture so much of a person’s childhood, but they did. Probably in a similarly obnoxious manner, but at least that, for a few years or decades, has some practical purpose. This film’s use of camera’s, serves no purpose. If I can’t buy why there’s constant recording going on, then you’ve already lost me, and it’s not even 15 minutes into the film.

Horror films these days are already difficult to make. Not the films themselves, but good horror films. Nothing can scare today’s audience the way it used to. We’ve seen it all. Knowing this, why would you want to add another element to a film that probably wasn’t going to be good to begin with? Do the executives at studios think the audience they’re hoping for is that stupid? Are they not aware that we’ve seen this trick so many times before, that what once was a novelty, is now just one big cliché? After yet another major letdown of a film, you’d think things would be heading for a much needed change. Too bad that itself is as much wishful thinking as is the idea that filmgoers will consistently get good horror films.


2 thoughts on “On Second Thought: “The Gallows”

  1. Having only reviewed two things so far myself, but being a huge fan of negative reviews written or recorded for entertainment, I am glad I found you. You are both amusing and angry, which is not a bad thing in this ‘genre’. Even you simply bluntly calling the film “a steaming pile of shit” was fun to read. I will be reading more.
    As for me, this has been a great inspiration as well as a good time.
    Nothing like a terrible piece of media to make you feel as though nihilism is a viable life view, eh?


    • Woohoo! Glad I could be of service in multiple ways! I also do try to be selective with my language use. I’ve seen other people’s posts constantly use it, and not only did I know I didn’t need to, but I find it’s best used sparingly. The impact can be felt more. Or, I hope it can be.


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