‘The Gallows’ Movie Review 0 825

the-gallows-movie-review

Dear Hollywood, what did us horror fans do to possibly deserve The Gallows? Perhaps it’s our own fault in making successes of the multitude of low-budget found footage movies that sweep the cinemas every year that we get such a derivative, turgid, self-satisfied and worst of all completely un-scary horror as this. Even so this seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

The plot, such as it is, takes place in a small town 20 years after a horrific accident that left a teenager dead during a school play. The current students decide to resurrect the play in a misguided attempt to honour the tragic incident. When three students (played by Reese Houser, Cassidy Spilker and Ryan Shoos) decide to break into the school before opening night and wreck the props, they soon discover that the past is better left behind.

It’s a thin plot that breeds not very much at all. From its two-dimensional characters, bad acting and utterly generic visual style, it doesn’t even come close to the sorts of base-level scares you’d want at minimum and certainly doesn’t provide anything that will have you talking about it afterwards beyond the anger that you’ve just spent good time and money on it. Usually horrors of this kind have one or two moments that have the power to make you feel mildly unsafe, if not make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, but The Gallows is jaw-droppingly free of any such scenes.

It comes to us from Blumhouse, the same studio that has found success in recent years with the likes of Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister and The Purge to name but a few, all films that at least initially did something interesting with the horror genre and tapped into a certain type of fear that’s kept audiences coming back for more. This has no such special quality about it, playing more as a badly made, production line effort churned out to grab some quick cash from the Friday night crowd who just turn up and pay for anything that a) happens to be on at the right time and b) promises loud noises in the dark.

The found footage aspect certainly doesn’t help either. It’s a style that has become so overused in the last few years that it induces groans upon the realisation that the film at hand is going to be employing it and it has to work damn hard from the offset to prove it’s not going to be just the same as the rest. But The Gallows is perfectly willing to just play in that sandbox, employing a bag of tricks that are so stale that it might as well come with an out-of-date expiration label.

Perhaps worst of all the film tries to thrust this legend on us about this killer named Charlie who uses a noose to terrorize and kill his victims. It’s not, admittedly, the worst idea for a new horror creation as you could easily boil down the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers to the same simplified level. But the proof is in the bloodied pudding with this sort of thing and The Gallows undercooked mythology simply isn’t good enough and a frankly insulting cheap trick of an ending only amplifies just how ineffective and lacking in substance it is.

Is this what is supposed to pass for horror? We know it doesn’t. The recent one-two punch of unsettling horror greatness The Babadook and It Follows, to name but a mere couple, vehemently proves that. The Gallows is nothing more than a shoddily made, unoriginal mess of a horror that just hangs there, dead and lifeless like the threatened victims of Charlie’s not-so-scary noose. We deserve better than this.

Previous ArticleNext Article
I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Movie Review: Home Again 0 530

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 556

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10

Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user 'rtmiller'@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 17

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 17

Warning: mysql_fetch_row() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 17

Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user 'rtmiller'@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 45

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 45

Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user 'rtmiller'@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 47

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 47

Warning: mysql_fetch_row() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 47