This may display some sort of recency bias on my part, or perhaps I’m especially grouchy, but Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing’s The Gallows is maybe the worst movie I’ve ever seen. And I’m not being hyperbolic here. I legitimately think it might be the biggest waste of time and money I ever sat through, which is not a claim I’d throw around lightly. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention it being a waste of talent, because that would suggest some sort of talent is involved here. This is the hackiest hack movie imaginable — a found footage horror movie plopped into theaters in the middle of 2015, an obvious, oblivious attempt at cashing in on Paranormal Activity’s (2007) popularity, a movie that people cared about eight damn years ago.
The biggest problem — one that’s monumentally fatal — is The Gallows’ found-footage conceit. I’m not sure, at this point, how many found-footage films I’ve reviewed, and how many, in total, I’ve sat through, but it’s always the same problem. It’s a tired, exhausted gimmick, one that allows for the laziest kind of filmmaking, one that eschews creativity for the idea of some sort of realism — except the gimmick is inherently distracting, constantly drawing you, the audience, out of the film. The Gallows is no different, to the point that it’s painful. From the moment the film opens with some “old” camcorder footage, I was ready to get up and go, since the overwhelming vibe of the film is a sense of been there, done that.
The Gallows builds on top of the old footage (and by proxy, really affirms how tedious and unattractive a movie-going experience this is) by throwing a gaggle of obnoxious, uninteresting teens in front of the camera. This is a movie where the hero is an unrepentant buffoon who spends his time picking on “dweebs” and “nerds,” as he calls them. Worse, we follow him and his stereotypical teen friends around for a third of the running time, as the movie laboriously sets up the tissue-thin plot revolving around some supernatural evil who wants to kill teens for some reason. Basically, nothing happens for one-and-a-half hours — no scares, not creepiness, even — and when things do ramp up, it’s little more than some locked doors and the kind of spooky nonsense that wouldn’t cut it in a half-rate haunted house. There’s nothing novel or interesting or ingenious at work here, let alone entertaining — to the point that The Gallows offers zero to either horror filmmaking or cinema in general. Rated R for some disturbing violent content and terror.