The only real issue for me with The Gallows is the opening fifteen minutes and the fact that it’s lead by the most obnoxious, rude and idiotic main character I’ve seen in film for years. However, when the scares start coming in and this asshole character bites the dust, and boy does it feel good, The Gallows becomes a nonstop fright-fest in which I screamed louder than ever in shock. I’m all for smart psychological horror films but I do love a cheap jump scare tactic and this 2015 critically panned horror has a bucketload and to me they all worked superbly.
So the basic premise is about a high school play that went horribly wrong back in 1993, a student was accidentally hung onstage. Twenty years later the play is about to be reinvigorated with new students. However, students Ryan, Cassidy and Reese want to sabotage the play so they break in at night and destroy the stage, upsetting fellow student Pfeifer and unsettling an angered spirit in the process. There’s not much to it, granted the lack of story allows a certain amount of freedom to let the characters wander around the spooky and sprawling corridors of their school at night. As mentioned before, the character Ryan is a complete asshole, a horrible character that was more headache inducing than anything. Why create such an immensely unlikeable person, it’s a big turn-away and at first I was considering is this worth sticking to? Spoiler alert, he does die and it’s a glorious moment, he gets the pain he deserves.
Whilst the performances aren’t anything to write home about, nor is there any noteworthy camera trickery or cinematography, the atmosphere and eeriness works beautifully. We all want to break into our schools at night just for the thrill, and that sense of danger and thrill is apparent here throughout. I love the use of dark reds and harsh glowing yellow lights scattered throughout the setting, shadows imprinted on walls look suitably menacing and it’s what builds up tension as you know that whatever stalks the hallways is getting closer. I liked the look of the killer, the masked hangman is terrifying when seen up close.
The best part about The Gallows is the jumpy moments. Loud thuds, crashes, screams, dead people appearing in front of the camera, I watched this alone in the dark and my housemate’s girlfriend came down and said it sounded like I was having a heart attack as the amount of screaming and swearing she heard from me. This film is so jump, my whole body shuddered and leapt up and down in the chair. Obviously the scares have been given major sound enhancements to maximise the full jump factor, which does make me think that beforehand the jolts weren’t effective enough, but I’m not bothered because I jumped a lot and that’s what made me enjoy this movie most. It is scary, it is very atmospheric and there are some moments that left me baffled and completely on edge. There could be rumours of a sequel, maybe a growing franchise, but please if so make likeable characters then maybe the haters would return.