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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Gallows is a found-footage horror movie about a cursed high school play. There are noisy, shocking jump-scares, plus images of teens killed by hanging, some drops of blood, and a few graphic, gory images. There's also some bullying, arguing, cruel practical jokes, and vandalizing. A teen makes lewd gestures, and there's a bit of innuendo and some tight/revealing clothes. Language includes one "f--k," plus "s--t," "bitch," "damn," "hell," and more. This is the kind of movie that teen horror hounds will flock to on its opening weekend, though it may quickly be forgotten after that.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In 1993, a Nebraska high school play called The Gallows went terribly wrong when an actor was unexpectedly hanged and killed. Two decades later, the drama class prepares to stage the play again. Wisecracking football player Ryan (Ryan Shoos) is in charge of capturing everything on video. His pal, Reese (Reese Mishler), has the lead role and is struggling with his performance while nursing a crush on his leading lady, Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown). Ryan convinces Reese that if they break into the school and destroy the sets, Reese won't have to go on. Unfortunately, they, along with Ryan's girlfriend, Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford), find themselves trapped inside ... and a malevolent spirit seems to be in there with them.
Is it any good?
Yet another in the seemingly endless parade of low-budget, "found footage" horror movies, this one feels like it was rushed into production without a chance to develop a strong story or characters. As THE GALLOWS begins, it places all of its chips on Ryan, the thoroughly obnoxious, disrespectful bully who's behind the camera. Cassidy loses points simply by being his girlfriend, while the others are fairly muted, never letting us in on who they really are.
The story never establishes any kind of reason for re-staging the deadly play -- or what the motivation of the evil spirit is (or even who it is). And the characters are never smart enough to recognize the obvious (don't climb that ladder!) or avoid horror movie cliches. Additionally, it's not much of a horror movie; the two writer/directors rely entirely on loud noises and jump-scares, without any building of suspense or dread. All in all, The Gallows has a few too many hang-ups.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Gallows' violence. How much is shown and not shown? Which is more frightening? How do the filmmakers achieve the movie's biggest scares? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
What is a "jump scare" in horror movies? Why do we react so strongly to sudden movements and noises?
Are any of these teens stereotypes? If so, how? Would you consider any of them role models?
Are any of the characters bullies? How are they dealt with, if at all?
- In theaters: July 10, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 13, 2015
- Cast: Cassidy Gifford, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Reese Mishler
- Directors: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 81 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some disturbing violent content and terror
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.