Film Review: The Gallows

by Evan Brown

Rated M. Starring Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford. Directed by Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing.

“Charlie Charlie, can we play?”

Let’s rewind a few years. It’s the year 1999.  I’m sitting in my year 7 Computer Tech class. I’m a little shorter with bowl haircut and glasses.  I’ve worked overly hard to finish my set task so my teacher can give me free time on the school’s 56k speed internet.  I race to the IBM and listen to the strange combination of sounds that the dial up connection makes and after 90 seconds I’m online.  It’s time to investigate this Blair Witch Project that everyone is talking about.  Apparently footage was found and the characters in the footage are real – I mean they each have their own MySpace page!

Fast forward to 2008.  I’ve ditched the glasses and my hair is shoulder length.  I’m scouring the internet (courtesy of the UNSW library) trying to find answers to this mysterious short 30-second film clip of a destroyed New York City.  What happened to Lafayette St? And what on earth is Operation: Cloverfield?

Now it’s present day 2015.  My hair is much shorter (except for the fringe), the glasses have come back (although only in private) and I’ve spent the past hour researching this new viral phenomenon called the “Charlie Charlie Challenge”. Similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (except nothing like it) Charlie Charlie is a challenge that involves the summoning of a ghost via séance and he/it answers questions in a yes or no format via rotating pencils.  Freaky right?  Why can’t there be the fluffy kitten challenge for once?  This Charlie Charlie challenge seems to be a very successful marketing ploy for Warner Bros’ horror flick The Gallows.

The Gallows is a “found footage” film that follows the first person perspective of four high school students who are involved in the school play (which is conveniently called “The Gallows”).  The Gallows was a play that was performed twenty years ago that resulted in the death of the lead actor. Dun dun dunnnnnn!!!  Legend has it that the ghost of Charlie still haunts the school, especially those who say his name (kinda like Voldemort).  So we know it’s not going to go well for the two football jocks (Mishler, Shoos), the cheerleader (Gifford) and the drama nerd (Brown) who break into the school auditorium late at night to sabotage the production of the play (what amateurs!).

This film has all the hallmarks of your average “found footage” horror flick.  The chauvinist jock who is doing a film project, the ditzy cheerleader, forbidden romance, the lack of lighting from the camera and that dreaded nauseating feeling from the shaky camera.

The Gallows is a standard horror flick with slight twists that keep you thinking about it well into the night however throughout the film I couldn’t shake this feeling of “I’ve been here before”.  And that’s because I had: in The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity.  I must admit that there were parts of this movie that made me jump and I was genuinely scared at points but what ruined the movie for me (besides the lack of originality) was the revealing of the ghost Charlie.  The reason why The Blair Witch Project was such a monster  was because it relied on your imagination.  Once I had seen Charlie he lost all credibility and scare-ability.  Now he’s just some weirdo running around in pantaloons with a mask on.

Now the film brief has been done let’s address the elephant in the room – this internet sensation that encourages children to summon a spirit via séance. Although in this case it seems to me to be just a successful marketing ploy it overlooks an extremely important and dangerous issue – demons and witchcraft.

This is a serious issue for Christians and it seems to be a spiritual faux pas in the church today (like discussing these issues could bring them to life again – kinda like Voldemort).  I’m not an expert on this subject however demons and witchcraft are very present in the Bible.  It’s a real thing.

It’s such a real thing that God warned the Israelites about it many times. Leviticus 19:31:

“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God”

What is so dangerous about a séance or Ouija is not so much the demonic aspect of it but that participation in it is a very clear way of rejecting God and His plan for us.  Instead of trusting in God we are rejecting His authority over us by searching other mediums for answers.  And rejection of God is far more dangerous than all the demons and witches combined.

As Christians this is an area that we should steer clear of.  We need to reject every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and flee from it (1 Timothy 2:22). In a 21st century world that has an oversaturation of sexuality and violence in the media we shouldn’t give the Devil another area that he could have a foothold in.

What I like about horror movies is that they have the ability to address spirituality.  If you’re taking a non-Christian friend it is quite easy to strike up a conversation about God, spirituality, and Jesus – God in the flesh who has authority over demons and all things including death (Ephesians 1:19-22)!

Who needs to be afraid of these things when we have a relationship with Jesus?

The Gallows may well develop a cult-like following like Paranormal Activity and we may see many many sequels and spin offs to come.  However the gimmick of found footage first person horror movies has become increasingly stale and directors today are employing new techniques to rejuvenate it (Check out Quarantine and Paranormal Activity 3).  Unfortunately The Gallows has gone with the standard shaky cam and like the style this film felt quite stale and done before.

I’m giving it two stars.

The Gallows will be released in Australian cinemas this Thursday, 23rd July. It is currently screening in the US.

For more film reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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