DVD Review: The Gallows (M15+) (USA, 2015)

Another entrant in the found-footage genre of horror that might have reached its expiry date. The Gallows would have had to do something exceptional (and exceptionally different) to tear it apart from the usual suspects. This all started with Blair Witch Project, reprised by the Paranormal Activity franchise, and many many others that never saw the light of a theatrical release. Unfortunately, the same parlor tricks have been dumped in this new context – a high school play gone wrong. That being said, as a fond lover of the genre, it still has something in it that makes this reviewer firmly believe it was not a complete waste of time.

The Gallows tells the story of a production of a play, called “The Gallows”, performed in 1993 at Beatrice High School. Towards the end of the play, the protagonist, played by Charlie, is set to be hanged on stage. As the noose is tied around his neck, the door beneath him opens unexpectedly, instantly killing him in front of a live audience. Twenty years later, students put on a production of “The Gallows” in memory of the tragedy. The night before the performance, unexplained things start to happen in the theatre.

The cast, which features an arrogant jock Ryan (Ryan Shoos), his ditzy annoying fake-tanned girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Spilker), the pushover friend (playing Charlie’s role) Reese (Reese Houser), and overly-enthusiastic theatre fanatic Pfeifer (Pfeifer Ross), are all pretty unlovable. This is okay though, as when they all get trapped in the theatre the night before the big performance, you won’t mind that they are about to feel a world of pain.

The Gallows apparently piggy-backed from the game which triggered the trending hashtag #CharlieCharlieChallenge. It is a paper and pencil game where pencils are stacked on top of a piece of paper with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ sections. Youth who play the game ask questions to a ‘Charlie’ entity and watch as the pencils move to reveal an answer. Charlie’s name is called throughout The Gallows, which is the only real link to this harmless game.

Although it isn’t exceptional in its execution or content, there are a couple of things about this film that stood out. Firstly, the sound department need a pat on the back. This was really well done, especially in the periods of deafening silence. The constant foreboding hum made the big jumps really big, keeping momentum. Also, even if it was clumsily and obviously executed, there was a little narrative twist revealed at the end of the film.

Overall, The Gallows is a bit of fun, and that’s what we have come to expect in the teen found-footage horror film canon.

Film Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The offerings for the single disc DVD edition are more substantial that has become the norm, which is much welcome – firstly there is a 10 minute making-of feature, that serves as a reasonably insightful look behind the origins of the film. There are eight deleted scenes, an alternate version of the “Ryan’s Body” scene and two alternate endings for the film – which will be enjoyable for fans of the film. And finally, there’s a 7 1/2 minute gag reel that frankly every horror film deserves.

Special Features Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Gallows is available on DVD and Blu-Ray Now.

Film review by Penny Spirou, Features review by Larry Heath.