The Gallows appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. “Found footage” movies can look a bit dodgy, but Gallows offered mostly good visuals.
The weakest aspects of the image related to blacks and shadows. Dark material seemed a bit inky, and low-light shots came across as a little more opaque than I’d expect. These weren’t substantial issues, but they became minor distractions.
Sharpness seemed largely positive. Despite a fair amount of “on the fly” focus and some iffy sources, the movie usually came across as accurate and well-defined. Ups and downs came along for the ride, but a lot of the movie seemed fine. No issues with moiré effects or jagged edges occurred, and I didn’t see edge haloes.
Print flaws weren’t a factor, as the movie looked clean. In terms of colors, Gallows favored blue/green; some orange and yellows also occurred, but the teal feel dominated. While those choices seemed tedious, the Blu-ray replicated the hues appropriately. Ultimately, this was a good transfer.
Not much pizzazz came from the film’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of The Gallows. Like many “found footage” films, this one violated its own reality so it could use all five channels. A movie shot on consumer video should be stereo at best, but Gallows broadened its horizons to the rear channels as well – and it included a subdued score, which also wouldn’t make sense in the “found footage” universe.
If we ignore the unreality of these choices, the soundscape seemed pretty good. The mix didn’t go crazy, so it stayed mostly with general atmosphere. A few spooky moments featured the side and rear channels more actively, but the majority of the track remained environmental in nature.
Audio quality was fine. Despite the “on the fly” nature, speech seemed acceptably concise and natural, and effects demonstrated nice clarity and range. The score was subdued but seemed well-rendered. This wasn’t an impressive track, but it worked in a positive manner.
When we shift to extras, the main attraction comes from The Gallows: The Original Version. After a 58-second introduction from writers/directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, we see their “guerrilla-style” first attempt at the film.
The “original version” runs one hour, 19 minutes and 54 seconds. How does it differ from the theatrical edition? For the most part, the two seem very similar – and often virtually identical. Many shots/scenes are pretty much clones of each orher.
That said, differences occur. We get a better framework for the story in the “original version”, and its makes superior chronological choices as well. The “original version” separates events by 25 years, not the 20 years in the theatrical edition. For character-related reasons, that makes more sense.
The “guerilla” nature of the project also allows the “original version” to seem more “real”. The theatrical edition simply tries too hard to be “cinematic”, like the filmmakers felt they had to gussy up the project for big screen. For instance, the “original version” lacks music, which allows it to suit the “found footage” format better.
Other small improvements occur. Even though it uses largely the same cast, the acting in the “original version” feels less forced, and the story flows more naturally. The characters are much less annoying – especially Ryan and his girlfriend – so we actually care what happens to the participants. Plot holes still exist, but they seem less egregious.
All of this allows the “original version” to become a moderately satisfying experience. It doesn’t turn The Gallows into a great film, but it definitely works a lot better than the theatrical edition.
Two featurettes follow. Surviving the Noose runs 17 minutes, 20 seconds and offers notes from Cluff, Lofing and producer Jason Blum. We learn how Cluff and Lofing got into movies and how they came together as a filmmaking partnership as well as the origins, development and creation of Gallows. Tight and informative, “Noose” tells us a ton about the subject matter – indeed, it’s so good that it makes me wish the disc came with a commentary, as I’d like to hear more from the filmmakers.
Next comes the nine-minute, 44-second Charlie: Every School Has Its Spirit. In this, we hear from Cluff, Lofing, producer Dean Schnider, sound designer Brandon Jones, and actors Reese Mishler, Cassidy Gifford, Pfeifer Brown, and Ryan Shoos. We get some story/character notes as well as shoot specifics, audio, and spooky experiences during the production. This becomes another fun and useful piece.
Deleted Scenes run a total of 18 minutes, 17 seconds. These tend to be insubstantial elements, without anything I’d call memorable. Some alternate views add a little spice but the clips remain mostly forgettable.
A Gag Reel lasts seven minutes, 45 seconds. It shows typical goofs and giggles.
Finally, we get three trailers. We see a “concept trailer” (2:42) as well as an “original version trailer” (2:48) and a theatrical trailer (1:38).
A second disc offers a DVD copy of The Gallows. It features the “Spirit” featurette as well as the gag reel and 11 of the 12 deleted scenes. (It drops one from “The Original Version”.)
Some “found footage” films use the format in an effective manner, but The Gallows fails in that regard. Slow, annoying and tedious, the movie lacks any obvious positives. The Blu-ray presents acceptable picture and audio as well as a collection of bonus materials highlighted by a fairly effective alternate “original” version of the film. The Gallows fails to entertain or scare.