Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while
I think I see my friends coming ridin’ many mile
– trad., arr. Page, Plant
Freddy has his glove, Jason his machete and now comes Charlie with his own way of distributing death sentences – a hangman’s noose – in the latest horror film to hit theater screens, The Gallows. The movie begins with a prologue showing a high school production of “The Gallows” that goes horribly wrong when a theater prop malfunctions, causing one of the cast to actually be hung to death. Now, some twenty years later, the same high school is about to re-launch the same production. Enter sensitive jock, Reese, who has joined the play to get closer to the lead actress, Pfeifer. Reese’s buddy, and fellow footballer, Ryan, is videotaping behind the scenes of the production, all the while mocking it and continually trying to get Reese to quit, so as to avoid embarrassment. Ryan ultimately devises the plan to trash the theater set the night before so the show can’t go on, and Reese decides to go along. Also joining in is Ryan’s girlfriend, Cassidy. That night, when the gang proceed with their plan, it turns out the ghost of Charlie, the young actor killed twenty years earlier, has plans of his own.
On the plus side, The Gallows enlists a different means of execution than the usual slice and dice teen slashers. There is something inherently sinister and unsettling about someone being hung to death. Knowing that this was a common means of executing people in the U.S. for many years, and that it was also used as an unlawful measure by townsfolk to dispense ‘justice,’ makes it especially distasteful. The minimal cast does a decent job of handling being scared, and the buildup to some of these scares is suspenseful at times. Also, the cast apparently did their own stunts and they seemed pretty realistic.
On the negative side, other than the use of a hangman’s noose to deliver death, there’s nothing really unique or special going on. Years ago, something terrible happened, someone died, and now revenge is being taken on a bunch of teens. And of course, there is some surprise or twist to be revealed. The Gallows is also another in a long line of seemingly endless ‘found footage’ films that has really at this point run their course. While this can be an effective way of producing a film with a minimal budget, and that appears to be the case here, it has become increasingly difficult to justify people videotaping the entire proceedings while they are being continually chased to death. Unless you can figure out a believable or original way of doing this, you’re better off forgoing the hand-held approach.
Finally, for a welcome ‘R’ rated theatrical horror film, there is little to no blood spilled, making one wonder why the film even received an ‘R’ rating in the first place. If you’re going to release an ‘R’ rated film, then Gore 4 it!