“Beatrice High School senior Charlie Grimille died tragically during the high school’s presentation of The Gallows…”
– TV News Broadcast
Here’s what I wrote about this one in my original theatrical review:
“It’s been 20 years since Beatrice High School attempted to put on a production of the stage play ‘The Gallows,’ the last time they did poor Charlie Grimille dying in a freak accident when a trapdoor malfunctioned leaving him dangling inside the noose. Now the school is staging the play again, supposedly to honor the dead student’s memory, and darling of the drama club Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown) is beyond excited. She’s even positive former star football player and male lead Reese (Reese Mishler) will prove to be a sensation, even though the popular jock is having a bear of time remembering his lines and appears to be battling an epic case of stage fright.
Best friend Ryan (Ryan Shoos) disagrees. He’s so certain Reese will be a flop he’s talked him into breaking into school after the sun’s gone down so they can dismantle the stage and make sure the production can’t take place. Along with cheerleader Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), the kids set to work on their sabotage, but when they’re interrupted by a suspicious Pfeifer their plans quickly get put on hold. Yet that’s nothing compared to the night’s major revelation as it seems Charlie Grimille has spent the past 20 years holding a grudge, and now thanks to his angry spirit these four teens are going to pay for the wrongs done to him two decades ago.
The idea for The Gallows isn’t necessarily a bad one. It’s a pretty standard disgruntled ghost story, the type of thing that would be contemplated and dealt with in about 35 minutes on a show like ‘Supernatural’ but stretched to feature length (if only just barely) here. The concept of a spectral killer who hangs his victims from the rafters is undeniably unsettling, and as such an aura of paranoia permeates things in a way that’s understandably palpable.
That’s pretty much it for the good news, because while co-writers/co-directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing’s found footage low budget horror opus is hardly a disaster there’s equally not a lot to get excited about. The big problem? The film is boring. As technically proficient as it might be, as nicely staged as a few signature moments are, overall there’s a humdrum banality to the supernatural happenings that’s just not particularly noteworthy, everything building to a supercilious silly twist of a finale that’s nothing close to original.
I will say that Cluff and Lofing do a reasonably decent job coming up with a reason for the quartet to continue filming their delinquent activities after the crap hits the fan (lack of power, no lights), so one of the main problems with found footage flicks – why the heck they’re still carrying the damn camera – thankfully goes out the window. That said, why they brought the devices in the first place, that’s still an issue, because only full-on psychopathic idiots would think it was a good idea to provide taped evidence of their breaking, entering and vandalism.
Thus there is the next issue, Ryan and Cassidy the chief nincompoops but that doesn’t mean Reese can be left off the hook as far as unconscionable buffoonery is concerned. These three hit every teenage cliché in the book while managing to add a few additional ones to the ledger as they go along, each acting not as human beings but as horror movie archetypes just aching to be killed in as gruesome a manner as possible. They’re just not that interesting or fun to spend time with, so when the final bell rings and the climactic surprise is revealed I can’t say I was all that excited to see what it was the filmmakers had managed to come up with.
Cluff and Lofing do show a flair for this sort of thing, their visual sensibilities relatively strong. But as storytellers they’re sadly scraping the bottom of an all-too familiar barrel, and I can’t say hanging out in the theater until the end was the best use of my time. The Gallows dangles entertainment to the absolute end of a very long rope, leaving it there drifting in the wind unable to do a single thing that could matter one way or the other.”
The Gallows isn’t very good. I gave it a second chance mainly because I feel like the filmmakers do have some talent, and while the idea they’ve come up for the film isn’t entirely original it’s still solid enough the potentially for a solid ghost story is definitely present. But it’s just so dumb, consistently so. Worse than that, it’s boring, trying to watch it again, even while folding laundry and doing dishes, about as tedious an operation as any I’ve attempted in quite some time.
The Gallows is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray with a MPEG-4 AVC encode and a 2.40:1 1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray feature an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack along with an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track (as well as French snd Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks) and comes with optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
The Gallows: The Original Version – This set’s best extra, this is the duplicate 81-minute movie that Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing originally made in order to get potential investors excited. Movie still has major issues, but the ending is a lot better and, for whatever reason, it doesn’t play near as stupidly, and while it’s not particularly good it’s easy to see what Warner Bros and other distributors saw in the filmmakers that was worth getting excited about.
Surviving the Noose – Jason Blum (he of Blumhouse Productions, the studio behind films like Paranormal Activity, Insidious and The Conjuring) chats with Cluff and Lofing about their debut; nowhere near as interesting or as informative as one might initially assume it would be.
Charlie: Every School Has Its Spirit – The directors talk about folklore and urban myths surrounding various public schools and how that led them to come up with the idea for Charlie Grimille. Too self-congratulatory for its own good and thus ends up not being as worthwhile as it maybe could have been.
A Digital HD Copy of the film along with a DVD version are both included with this release.
I can’t hate on The Gallows even if it isn’t particularly good, if only because I do still think directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing do have some talent and as such their movie isn’t a total loss. But it’s awfully close to being one, so unrelentingly boring I can’t say a second of this found footage enterprise ever got my pulse racing even a smidge above normal. Still, Warner’s Blu-ray presentation is a terrific one, and for fans (if there are any) I can’t help but suspect they’ll be far happier with this two-disc collection than most will turn out to be.