HOLLYWOOD—Horror in Hollywood is not easily accomplished. To deliver the thrills seriously, it involves a villain that is frightening, characters we care about and a narrative that sutures you right into the movie. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of the found footage flick because it has been butchered to death, but the “The Gallows” delivers a bevy of surprises sure to leave theatergoers shaking in their seats.
The flick revolves around a group of high school students who decide to sneak into the school and halt production on a performance of the school play, “The Gallows,” 20 years after a gruesome accident claimed the death of student Charlie Grimille. What works well for the film is its ability to build a heightened level of suspense before the actual chaos begins to erupt.
The audience gets a fair depiction of the titular characters, and unlike most horror flicks, there is no huge body count. That is actually a good thing; it allows for the development of the characters and the narrative. The characters include Reese (Reese Mishler), Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), Ryan (Ryan Shoos) and Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown). They set-up the typical horror flick trope seen time and time again of teenage stereotypes: we have the jock, the cheerleader/mean girl, the brainy one and the goofball.
Writers and directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing do an amazing job at foreshadowing the imminent danger. We get a nice bit of backstory on who our characters are, as well as the mystery behind what transpired with Charlie. Our heroic teens decide to venture into the school after hours, and what ensues is absolutely utter chaos.
As a horror buff, it is extremely difficult to deliver a good scare to me; however, I appreciate the huge level of scares the “The Gallows” gives to moviegoers. There are so many ‘jump out of your seat’ moments; watching this picture in a crowded movie theater only adds to the fun. Imagine looking at the person next to you, wondering how they might react to a particular scare, and it’s you who becomes the laughing stock. Without spoiling too much, there is one locker scene that nearly caused me to jump right out of my seat.
Unlike prior found footage flicks such as “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project,” “The Gallows” doesn’t come across as painstakingly boring. There is always something occurring to keep the viewer on edge. The suspense that is built up to climactic moments doesn’t disappoint.
As most horror movies go, there are deaths in “The Gallows,” but not in the systematic way audiences have come to expect in the genre. These kids are fighters. Charlie toys with them at first, which is what I like about the narrative. It’s not just hack and whack and move onto the next; as spectators we begin to feel for these characters and we also partake in the grotesque fun that happens on the big screen.
“The Gallows” might be one of the smartest horror flicks I’ve seen in years because it delivers on all fronts: originality, great characters, a unique villain and plenty of scares. This is a movie that you shouldn’t miss, but also shouldn’t watch alone.