by Sarah A. Peterson
A vengeful spirit returns to the stage two decades after his onstage hanging in Fresno filmmakers Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff’s debut horror feature The Gallows.
The students of Beatrice High School aim to bring back The Gallows, an ill-fated production that left student Charlie Grimille dead back in 1993. Spearheading the ambitious project are theatre darling Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown) and her love-struck costar, jock-turned-thespian, Reese (Reese Mishler). But Reese’s obnoxious best friend Ryan (Ryan Shoos) and Ryan’s cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) have other ideas—to destroy the set just for kicks, on the night before The Gallows is set to open.
The pair somehow manages to convince Reese to go along with their scheme, and they proceed to break into the school auditorium after hours. But their nefarious plans go horribly awry when they encounter Pfeifer and the ghost of Charlie Grimille bent on revenge in his original role as The Gallows hangman. What follows is a tense, nail-biting game of paranormal cat-and-mouse as the terrified teenagers find themselves trapped in the cavernous auditorium, at the mercy of a phantom executioner.
Filming is almost entirely in the Fresno area with the Fresno Veterans Memorial Auditorium taking center stage as the haunted school auditorium. Filmmakers Lofing and Cluff employ the found-footage aesthetic to surprisingly fresh effect, keeping the scares inventive and nervy enough to breathe new life into this tired horror sub-genre. The casting of unknown actors heightens the sense of realism, while the unfolding backstory gives the film a much-needed boost of plausibility.
The Gallows is definitely worth checking out in the days leading up to Halloween!
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