Blu-ray Review: The Gallows

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New to Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD (via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) is the "found footage" horror hit The Gallows. Made for a reported budget of just $100,000, the film grossed $38 million worldwide. That's not blockbuster status in this day and age, but it's probably a safe bet the producers are pleased with their profit margin. Sadly, this isn't a very inspired entry in the "found footage" subgenre. In fact, even at 80 minutes the film feels overly long and ultimately rather pointless. However, Warner's Blu-ray is highlighted by a terrific package of special features that includes a significantly different "original cut" of the entire feature film. It was filmed guerrilla style at a fraction of the budget of the finished, theatrically-released version. Fans of the film and perhaps students filmmakers will likely be pleased to compare the two cuts.

The Gallows begins with a fatal accident occurring onstage during a high school play, caught on standard definition videotape back in 1993. Midway through a performance of a play called The Gallows, a floor gives way and hangs an noose-wearing actor. For reasons that remain unfathomable, 20 years later the high school seems obsessed with commemorating the tragedy by re-staging the same play. They even have a goofy photo of the '93 cast displayed prominently in a hallway. No one seems particularly phased by the fact that they're kind of pissing on the deceased student's grave by making this re-staging such a celebration. 
Gallows BD (301x380).jpg Most of The Gallows suffers from one of the "found footage" subgenre's biggest flaws: in an effort to keep things "realistic," none of the characters have anything interesting to say. M. Night Shyamalan recently overcame this problem in his recent The Visit. How'd he do it? He took the time to craft backstories for his main characters and gave them purposeful dialogue. His film is thoroughly entertaining, whereas The Gallows sticks us with a handful of painfully obnoxious teenagers that actually seem like all-too-real imbeciles. The most immature and unfunny of the bunch happens to be the guy holding the camera that captures all the "documentary" footage. Lucky us.

The final act, which finds the kids trapped in the school theater trying to evade the ghost of the hanged student/actor, does manage to scare up a bit of tingly atmosphere. But it's really not worth it by that point. 
Gallows 1 (380x214).jpg In addition to the original, guerrilla-style early version of the film, the Blu-ray also includes two featurettes: "Charlie: Every School Has Its Spirit" and "The Gallows: Surviving the Noose." There are also deleted scenes, trailers, and a gag reel. The gag reel has the dubious distinction of containing allegedly funny outtakes that are nearly indistinguishable from the material that actually made it into the movie.

The Blu-ray is outfitted with a Dolby Atmos surround mix, which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those without Atmos-enabled systems. While the handheld video doesn't make for anything to write home about in the visual department (these "found footage" films typically have intentionally shaky, blurry, and sometimes distorted imagery and this is no exception), the surround mix packs a great punch during the "jump scare" moments. The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a standard DVD plus a Digital HD copy.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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