A cautionary note: If your horror film is about a high-school theater production and still, the acting’s not the worst thing about it, something's gone awfully wrong. Set on a cursed Nebraska stage, The Gallows begins in 1993, when, as we see in degraded video footage, a wanna-be Brando meets his accidental death via a malfunctioning prop. Two decades later, the school somehow decides to put on an anniversary revival because wouldn't that be a good idea. Even before the plot’s trio of sexy saboteurs—an athlete (Reese Mishler), a princess (Cassidy Gifford), an obnoxious bully with a camera (Ryan Shoos)—gets locked in the building overnight by supernatural forces, you know this play isn’t going to make it to the curtain call.
Writer-directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff go straight for found-footage clichés (evil is conveniently signaled by a low hum) without ever bothering to wonder if such found footage, mainly of adolescents shrieking in the dark, wouldn't be instantly relost. This gimmick needs to be taken out to the Blair Witch woods and retired. Marginally more interesting is the movie’s resuscitation of the ’80s horror trope of the one-named killer: Here, he's Charlie, the ghost of the dead student, or maybe he's the hangman. In any case, he wears a bag over his head and nooses people to death. After several tedious jump scares and boneheaded escape plans, a bag over your head won't seem like such a bad idea. Or the noose.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew