In 1993, a student accidentally died onstage during the opening night performance of The Gallows, a macabre play that was staged at Beatrice High. The unfortunate understudy, a last-minute replacement for the suddenly indisposed star, was hanged when the noose around his neck actually killed him when the trapdoor under his feet was opened.
Some 20 years later we find the school’s theater club planning to put on the same production in order to pay homage to the actor who lost his life. Drama teacher Mr. Schwendiman (Travis Cluff) is now overseeing the project with the help of a student stage manager (Price T. Morgan).
In the cast, Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown) has been picked to play the female lead opposite Reese (Resse Mishler) who will be reprising the role of the ill-fated protagonist. Other critical persons of interest include football team captain Ryan (Ryan Shoos) and his cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford).
Ryan is an amateur filmmaker who has obsessive-compulsive disorder. So, he constantly keeps his hand-held camera on “record.” That annoying habit might prove valuable should anything tragic transpire, even if the shaky images are dizzying to watch.
These clues are all the police have to go on to decipher what happened in The Gallows, a found-footage movie co-written and co-directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. The movie is a worthy addition to the low-budget horror sub-genre that was started by The Blair Witch Project in 1999.
As in Blair Witch, the characters use their real names in order to blur the line between fact and fiction and thereby suggest that what you’re watching is a documentary. However, that pretense is undermined by the presence of Cassidy Gifford in the movie, since it’s hard to believe that the daughter of Frank and Kathy Lee Gifford was raised in rural Nebraska. Nonetheless, she delivers a decent performance as a terrified coed.
Very Good (***). Rated R for terror and disturbing violence. Running time: 81 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.