** ½ out of ****
Found footage strikes again with this ridiculous but mildly effective horror flick, The Gallows. Years ago in 1993, a high school play ended in tragedy when a student actor was accidentally hanged and killed on stage during the live performance. What is possibly THE bad idea to end all bad ideas, the present high school staff decides to resurrect that same play. A jock, Reese (Reese Mishler), has been cast in the play but he's no actor and only doing it because he has a mad crush on the pretty Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown). However, Reese's obnoxious pal Ryan (Ryan Shoos) has a plan to save Reese from utter embarrassment – break into the school the night before the performance and destroy the sets for the play. Along with Ryan's main squeeze, Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), the boys break into the school. Soon, with Pfeifer in tow, they all end up locked in and terrorized by an unseen force.
I guess the filmmakers gave the main characters the same first names of the actors portraying them so as to, like The Blair Witch Project, confuse the audience into thinking this is genuine found footage and not a fictitious movie. That's just part of the showmanship for these types of movies.
Anyway, writers/directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing give the camera to the most grating character (Ryan), but they were wise enough to (oops, spoilers!) kill him off first.
The Gallows is a throw-away horror film that has a half-assed mystery at its center, and I'm sure I won't remember it by month's end, but it does have a few good scares and lots of creepy atmosphere. Plus, seeing it with a lively audience was the key to making this a fun night at the movies.