A mediocre found-footage ghost story about four teenagers who are haunted by the specter of a hangman-obsessed drama nerd, The Gallows is only good enough to make you wish its creators did something novel with its formulaic style, plot, and characterizations.
Co–writer-directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing set up predictable jump-scares with a noticeable but immodest soupçon of intelligence. Some scenes and plot twists are surprisingly well developed, but none so much you’ll want to overlook a myriad of dumb plot developments.
For example, seeing vain cheerleader Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) admire herself in the camera-phone of disaffected jock-cameraman Ryan (Ryan Shoos) is mildly clever because it makes a later sequence, where Cassidy examines a mysterious neck wound in a Blair Witch Project–esque up-the-nose extreme close-up, seem less implausible. Still, The Gallows makes it too easy to wonder why Ryan and his pals don’t use their cells earlier, or consistently stick together while exploring their famously haunted high school auditorium, or make the many other logical decisions that viewers will think of between programmatic scare scenes.
Cluff and Lofing likewise squander all the goodwill they generate with impressive tromp l’oeil special effects by jiggling their handheld cameras so hard that it sometimes feels like you’re watching an unofficial Saving Private Ryan sequel. Ryan occasionally puts his camera down, but when he does, you wish Cluff and Lofing had dared to imagine this high school kid had access to a tripod and some cheap filmmaking courses.
Written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing
New Line Cinema
Opens July 10
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 9, 2015