The 400-Word Review: The Gallows

By Sean Collier

July 13, 2015

At least the title doesn't disappoint.

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The marketing for the new found-footage horror film The Gallows compared its villain, Charlie Grimille, to evil icons Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. If we briefly ignore the fact that Charlie can’t hold a candle to his ’80s ancestors, the publicity decision makes a bit of sense; the concept of marrying the struggling found-footage genre with the boogeyman slashers of decades past seems at least vaguely fresh.

Unfortunately, it’s a bald-faced lie from the folks at Warner Bros. The Gallows is in no way a slasher movie, and its boogeyman is no more memorable than the invisible spooks in a later Paranormal Activity flick. Any way you slice it, The Gallows is no more than a half-hearted cash grab in a dying medium, surprisingly lazy even by the standards of the genre.

Twenty years ago, the aforementioned Charlie was killed by a malfunctioning stage set during a high school production called The Gallows, a rights-free stand-in for The Crucible. To mark the anniversary — in open rejection of logic, decorum, taste or superstition — the school decides to re-stage the fatal play.

Drama geek Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown — yes, the producers couldn’t even be bothered to rename their actors) is thrilled, while football player Reese (Reese Houser) is just there for a class credit. Worried that he’ll humiliate himself, Reese and buddies Ryan (Ryan Shoos) and Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) sneak into the school by night to destroy the set and disrupt the production.


Weird things start happening. Slowly.

If you’ve ever seen a scary movie before, you know that Charlie is here to divide and conquer. The bulk of The Gallows is formulaic scares wringing the last bit of juice out of the inherent creepiness of found-footage camerawork; is something over our camera holder’s shoulder? Yes, and always accompanied by an unnecessary banging noise, just in case anyone in the audience was looking at their phone (a safe bet with this movie).

I can name three moments where something vaguely interesting happened, and those were completely unoriginal. The completely anonymous cast, many on their first serious credit, don’t possess a tenth of the skill that would be required to make the tissue-thin script interesting. The best endorsement I can give The Gallows is that it’s too short to be truly infuriating; with credits rolling at only 76 minutes, you’ll be out of the theater before you can even get annoyed.

My Rating: 2/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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