The Gallows quickly transpires as another Found Footage film. It is a surprise, given that the Found Footage genre has become so overplayed in recent years such that most efforts have now become cheap dvd-released films made by newcomers, that The Gallows ended up receiving a major theatrical release and from Warner Brothers, no less. Blumhouse has given it another of their medium budgets and the film certainly looks more professional than the last fifty or so Found Footage horror films that one has seen. On the other hand, after Paranormal Activity, which is now producing its fifth sequel, Lake Mungo (2008), Paranormal Entity (2009), Gacy House (2010), Haunted Changi (2010), Grave Encounters (2011), The Bell Witch Haunting (2013), The Borderlands (2013) and Paranormal Asylum (2013) to name but a few, the Found Footage haunting has become a particular genre vein that feels like all of its moves have been well and truly worn out. The Gallows enters the game feeling like it has no new ones to add. It even borrows the trick from the first Found Footage film The Blair Witch Project (1999) of giving the characters the same names as the actors.
Certainly, the film holds your interest at the outset. The set-up is obvious that the high school drama society putting on a play is going to be haunted by the accidental death that occurred two decades earlier but Cluff and Lofing put a clever spin on this by having the staging of the play being filmed by somebody who is readily injecting his own scathing commentary and ridiculing everything he sees, even later leads the efforts to sabotage the show. This wryly undercuts our expected straightforward approach, plus also serves to provide an acutely penetrating cross-section of the brutality of the hierarchies that exist in an American high school.
The disappointment is that when we get to the haunting aspect, everything the changing topography of the building, the red herrings, the surprise jumps runs by the standard playbook. There is one good jump that Cluff and Lofing pull towards the end where Cassidy Gifford is hiding in a shower room, where a hooded figure carrying a noose comes up behind her, she moves forward to adjust the camera unaware of it behind her, looks over her shoulder but sees nothing, only to move back out of closeup and find the noose is now around her neck. There is not much that makes sense in terms of explanations as to why things are happening. Even given the vague idea about Reese Mishler being made to pay for his fathers dropping out of the fateful role in 1993, you are not sure why everybody else is being targeted. The ending offers a modest twist but when the investigating cops start being attacked too, all established sense evaporates.
Jason Blum has produced a number of other genre films including:- Hamlet (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007) and sequels, Insidious (2010) and sequels, Tooth Fairy (2010), The Bay (2012), The Lords of Salem (2012), The River (tv series, 2012), Sinister (2012) and sequel, Dark Skies (2013), Oculus (2013), The Purge (2013) and sequels, the tv mini-series Ascension (2014), Creep (2014), Jessabelle (2014), Mercy (2014), Mockingbird (2014), Not Safe for Work (2014), Ouija (2014) and sequel, 13 Sins (2014), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014), Area 51 (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), Curve (2015), The Gift (2015), Jem and the Holograms (2015), The Lazarus Effect (2015), Martyrs (2015), Visions (2015), The Visit (2015), The Darkness (2016), Hush (2016), Incarnate (2016), The Veil (2016), Viral (2016), Amityville: The Awakening (2017), Get Out (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), The Keeping Hours (2017), Split (2017) and Stephanie (2017).