"The Gallows" is the latest found-footage horror films in the long line of them currently available. Taking place 20 years after a high schooler named Charlie was killed in a school play, four kids decide to sneak into their school after dark to mess with the set and, you guessed it, stuff goes wrong.
The set-up for this film actually works nicely. The first scene actually shows the original play in which Charlie dies before throwing us into the present day and introducing us to our batch of kids. Even this works nicely, with each kid fitting a typical horror stereotype, although the set-up could have worked just as well for a high school comedy. As we get inside the school though, the film does a nice job at delivering on the tension as the audience knows that something has to happen at some point. The problem is it takes about the first hour before anything physically starts happening to our group of red shirts. There are noises, which add a layer of creepiness and some small jump scares, but those only work for so long before an actual payoff is needed.
The camera work is also nice. At the start, part of what helped to elevate the tension was the use of the camera as a first person experience to make it seem like you're there with the kids. As the movie goes on, however, this effect is lost. There's also a nice use of visual effects with a corridor which gave the look of a blood-filled hallway. While I'm not sure if it was an intended effect, it worked neatly for me.
As a whole, the actors all did fine. There are four main stars (none of which are really notable) and they do about as well as one would think teen stars would do. I really had no issues with the acting and it worked for both the character roles and to deliver the horror movie vibe. There is something of a forced romance between two of the characters which felt really out of place. I've seen this kind of thing work before, but as it's only really dealt with at the beginning with no real payoff, it just seemed strange.
The ending was probably my favorite part. While I won't spoil it, it's able to connect a lot of things together in a neat way and the penultimate scene was smart, if not a little unrealistic.
What ultimately didn't allow this film to work for me, however, was how much the trailer showed. Having gone to movies all summer and seen this trailer at least ten times as a result, there weren't a lot of surprises in this movie until the very end. If you're going to make a horror trailer, only show a small part of the film to get interest or only show parts from the first half of the film so that at least some of it is a surprise. Otherwise it can ruin the film.
Despite it's faults, and some noisy people in the audience, I did find myself having a fun time with "The Gallows." There's a neat mystery element to it and, despite the fact that a lot of the scares are shown in the trailer, they do work on their own. Plus I hardly touched my popcorn or beverage for the whole 80 minutes, which is rare in my case and says something to how engaged I was in the experience.
But those are my thoughts. Let me know yours in the comments!
Check out my video review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAmpIK9OgNA