In Warner Bros.’ new horror thriller “The Gallows,” four high school students find themselves in grave danger after getting locked in the auditorium overnight. Three of them—Reese, Ryan and Cassidy—are there to sabotage the sets for the upcoming school play; the fourth, Pfeifer, the play’s female lead, has followed them in, correctly suspecting they’re up to no good.
Playing the classic cheerleader-jock pair of Ryan and Cassidy are actors Ryan Shoos (“As Night Comes”) and Cassidy Gifford (“God’s Not Dead”). Yes, to keep things feeling more genuine for the cast, the filmmakers used the lead actors’ first names as character names.
Because the character of Ryan also serves in large part as the film’s storyteller-cum-cameraman, directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff knew that the actor cast in the role would have to at least appear to be a skilled amateur videographer as well. Lofing explains, “We were looking for someone who could operate a camera, but who was also an energetic person who audiences would connect with. Like that slightly obnoxious friend who’s in your face, but he’s funny and you love him. Plus in the film he’s a jock, so in typical high school fashion, he’s popular. Ryan came in and just did a great job off the bat. Travis and I immediately knew he was the guy.”
Shoos describes his character as “one of the coolest guys around, in his own humble opinion. He’s on the varsity football team, he’s got a hot girlfriend, and he’s funny.”
Of the character’s ever-present video camera, Shoos says, “He thinks people love being filmed, so he likes turning the camera on them. But really he just can’t resist embarrassing them or pranking them and getting into a little mischief with his friends.”
That mischief is what gets them all into serious trouble and puts them in the path of real mayhem…and severe danger. Shoos details, “Ryan convinces Reese and Cassidy to destroy the sets the night before the play. So they break into the school in order to take down the gallows, and Ryan’s got his camera on them the whole time; he’s not missing this kind of footage. But then things start happening—creepy, paranormal things they can’t explain. Their cell phones stop working, the sets they take down get put back together, doors are suddenly locked. It starts small and then it just gets worse.”
Cassidy Gifford plays the head cheerleader and girlfriend of jokester Ryan. Lofing praises, “She brought some great stuff to the character. Like Ryan, she was really funny in moments, but when it got serious, she was in the moment, really intense, for every take. I didn’t have to say much, she was just in the zone. She did a phenomenal job.”
Gifford says, “I grew up loving horror films, so doing one was never something I would have counted out of the realm of possibility. But coming in and actually doing it was more challenging than I could have imagined. People probably always say this about working in the horror genre, but being on set, doing night shoots, surrounded by a very small cast and crew, was actually pretty scary at times! Because the production was kept so small, a lot of the time we were alone in a random, dark hallway with nothing going on. We would hear things, we would see things, and it all made it seem very real; I won’t lie, I was definitely freaked out more than once.”
While the character sort of goes along for the ride, she’s the first to suffer the consequences when strange markings begin to appear on her neck, though nothing—nothing human, that is—has touched her. “The phones aren’t working, the doors are locked; Ryan’s trying to calm her down, but she knows something is off,” Gifford supplies. “And then this bruising starts to appear on Cassidy’s neck and she feels like she’s being pulled by something, but nothing is there. At that point, she just wants to get out of that place. It’s not a funny prank anymore.”
Producer Jason Blum says of the cast, “Naturalistic performances are especially crucial in this style of film, and Chris and Travis found terrific actors.”
In “The Gallows,” twenty years after an accident caused the death of the lead actor during a high school play, students at the same small town school resurrect the failed stage production in a misguided attempt to honor the anniversary of the tragedy—but ultimately find out that some things are better left alone.
The film stars Cassidy Gifford (“God’s Not Dead”), Ryan Shoos (“As Night Comes”), Reese Mishler (the web series “Youthful Daze”) and Pfeifer Brown under the direction of Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff, who wrote the screenplay.
Opening across the Philippines on July 22, “The Gallows” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.