Looking Back at 2010s Films: The Gallows (2015)

22 Oct


By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films…I didn’t say all the films I look back upon had to be the ones I liked.

I mentioned I’m a supporter of the “found-footage/fake-documentary” angle, but I also mentioned there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it…with that said, I hate “The Gallows.”

Not only does it have the most forced explanations possible for why this film “needed” to be seen through the perspectives of the characters’ video cameras (seriously–it didn’t add a thing), not only is the writing atrocious, not only are we subjected one of the most forced plot progressions ever (for the sake of “twists” that hardly make any sense anyway)…but making Ryan the main character made this one of the most unpleasant experiences I ever had watching a movie. I detested this snot-nosed little pissant from the moment he first appeared on-screen to the moment where he finally gets his comeuppance–in a horror film, that’s a very bad decision!!

OK…let’s TRY to be fair here.

To be fair, none of the other characters are relatable or likable either. Even Reese, the typical bland, shy, charming, awkward teen we’re supposed to sympathize with, isn’t so charming after all. I would give props to the directors for not making him the lead, but…Ryan?? F**king Ryan??? WHY??

OK, enough Ryan-bashing. I did enough of that in my original Smith’s Verdict review already.

I mentioned in my review that I like the idea of a horror story taking place in a school, but I will admit there IS actually something else I like about the film. Switching from camera to camera is a given lately in found-footage movies, but the way they do it here (showing the other camera’s perspective to show what happened EARLIER, when we only heard sounds based on something that may have happened off-camera) is actually mildly effective.

Maybe I’m just jealous of this film. It was made for a small budget, independently, and then New Line Cinema picked it up for distribution, some changes were added, and it was released to theaters. And I don’t mean limited-release. I mean wide-release, multiplex, seen nationwide. That baffles me… I mean, kudos to the filmmakers who obviously had a dream, but…

Screw it, I don’t want to be too mean. And the film was already critically panned, pretty heavily.

Except from Richard Roeper, one of my favorite critics still writing today…you know what, I’m gonna look up his review of “The Gallows”…

“One of the strengths of ‘The Gallows’ is it knows how a cheery, bustling place during the daytime can become a creepy hall of horrors in the dead of night.” …That’s the opening paragraph, and I agree 100%. But let’s keep going…

“This is the kind of movie where you can anticipate the next big shock and it usually arrives right on cue, and yet it still gets you right in the gut.” Well, good for him, but when I “anticipate” the “next big shock,” it’s because I know it’s setting up for a predictable jump-scare, followed by a loud musical sting that shouldn’t even be there if it’s found-footage.

“Even with some plot holes as gaping as the Grand Canyon – OK, as gaping as POT holes in Chicago after the spring thaw – its effectiveness cannot be denied.” I disagree, but that’s the kind of Richard Roeper biting dialogue I’ve always loved.

He goes on to describe the plot and thankfully, he agrees that putting on the same play that still got a student killed years ago is a REALLY stupid idea. But… “This is the first of about 30 stupid decisions made by key characters, but what horror movie DOESN’T feature the leads doing really dumb things?”

Roeper, what are you doing to me, man? I’m starting to agree with your positive review!

“At times it makes no sense for any camera and/or phone to be recording the madness as characters shriek and run and howl and cower and yell at one another, but ‘The Gallows’ stays true to the ‘found-footage’ rule of never once stepping outside the conceit that all of this was recorded by participants in the story.” There are better found-footage movies that have better explanations as to why the cameras are consistently rolling…I can’t get into this one.

OK, so clearly, Roeper liked this movie for the same reasons I did not. (He didn’t even seem to mind Ryan as much as I did.) Film is subjective, and there are no exceptions. it would’ve been easy for Roeper to pretend he didn’t find any sort of entertainment value in this thing, just as it would’ve been just as easy for me to claim I liked it.

I will NEVER like this movie. And if I ever go see its sequel (which is already on-demand at Amazon Prime, last I checked), I’d be doing so kicking and screaming my way in. But if you do…I won’t mind.

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