At the end of the last century, "The Blair Witch Project" popularized the notion of idiots in horror movies filming every second of their own imminent demise. The latest entry in this deliberately unpolished subgenre is "The Gallows," shot for about $1.83, by writers-directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff.
It's 1993, in nondescript Beatrice, Nebraska, and we're watching a camcorder tape of the opening night of a play called "The Gallows," a gory variation on "The Crucible." The stage is dominated by a scaffold and a noose.
One prop malfunction later there's a dead young actor, a lot of screaming and a jump-cut to 2013. Despite sensible school board objections, the drama department has decided to remount the play, this time with a star football player in the role of the boy to be hanged. Reese Mishler plays the fledgling actor, also named Reese; his co-star, a devoted drama student, is played by Pfeifer Brown, who fares best among the tiny but blandly characterized cast.
Belligerent, unsympathetic jock Ryan (Ryan Shoos) hatches a plan to break into the school at night and, with the help of Reese and Cassidy (Cassidy Erin Gifford, daughter of Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford), trash the set. The specter with the noose has other plans.
Sample dialogue: "What the hell is going on?" Sample dialogue in your head: "And why the hell is the one with the camera still filming?"
Each time we're in the presence of the demon ghost (there's one in every high school drama department), "The Gallows" cranks up the predictable metallic KLAA-chonnnggg sound effects. It makes you wonder if this the first film to be directed by the "Law & Order" gavel. It takes a while to realize that Lofing and Cluff are playing a game of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None." Unfortunately, nobody wins at this game, including the audience.
PLOT High schoolers resurrect a show that brought tragedy 20 years earlier. RATED R (for some disturbing violent content and terror)
CAST Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Cassidy Erin Gifford, Ryan Shoos
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINEThis movie is bad noose.