Harrowing Horror Flick Unfolds At Haunted High School
Back in 1993, a student accidentally died onstage during the opening night performance of “The Gallows,” a macabre play being staged at Beatrice High. The unfortunate understudy, a last-minute replacement for the suddenly-indisposed star, was somehow hanged when the noose around his neck actually functioned when the trapdoor under his feet gave way.
Fast-forward 20 years and we find the school’s theater club planning to put on the same production, ostensibly as an attempt to pay homage to the kid who lost his life. Drama teacher Mr. Schwendiman (Travis Cluff) is now overseeing the well-intentioned project with the help of a nerdy, student stage manager (Price T. Morgan).
In terms of the casting, Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown) has been picked to play the female lead opposite Reese (Resse Mishler) who will be reprising the role of the ill-fated protagonist. Other critical persons of interest for these purposes include football team captain Ryan (Ryan Shoos) and his cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford).
Ryan also just happens to be an amateur filmmaker with OCD. So, he constantly keeps his hand-held camera on “Record.” That annoying habit might prove valuable should anything tragic transpire on campus, even if the shaky images are terribly dizzying.
In fact, these clues are all the police have to go on to decipher what happened in The Gallows, a found-footage flick co-written and co-directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. The movie is a worthy addition to this low-budget, horror subgenre inaugurated by The Blair Witch Project in 1999.
Just as in Blair Witch, the characters here use their real names in order to blur the line between fact and fiction, and thereby suggest that what you’re watching is a documentary. However, that pretense is pretty much undermined by the presence Cassidy Gifford in the picture, since it’s hard to buy the idea that the daughter of Frank and Kathy Lee Gifford was raised in rural Nebraska. That being said, she does deliver a decent performance as a terrified coed.
Scary fright fare that puts a creepy new spin on the meaning of school spirit.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 81 minutes
Faith Of Our Fathers
Pure Flix Entertainment
Rated PG-13 for brief violence
Faith-Based Family Film Finds Believer And Doubting Thomas Bonding En Route To Vietnam War Memorial In DC
GIs Steven George (Sean McGowan) and Edward Adams (Scott Whyte) became best friends while serving behind enemy lines in Vietnam, despite the fact that the former was a devout Christian while the latter was definitely a Doubting Thomas. Sadly, both the atheist and the believer perished in battle in 1969, with each leaving behind a child he never got to know.
Fast-forward a quarter-century and we discover that the apples didn’t fall far from their patrilineal trees. Steven’s offspring John (Kevin Downes) has been blessed with a strong faith like his late father, and Edward’s son Wayne (David A.R. White) has somehow developed his own dad’s disdain for organized religion.
This gulf in attitudes has ostensibly had a profound effect on the orphans’ respective fortunes. For, John is stable and successful and on the brink of tying the knot with the love of his life, Cynthia (Candace Cameron Bure). By contrast, Wayne is an underachieving ne’er-do-well who has had more than his share of run-ins with the law.
Since John lives in California and Wayne in Mississippi, the two never met until the still-grieving groom-to-be informs his very patient fiancée that, before he walks down the aisle with her, he needs to repair the hole in his soul by learning all he can about his dearly-departed dad. That quest leads to Wayne, who just happens to have a stash of letters his father mailed home from the jungles of Southeast Asia.
The two soon hatch a plan to read the letters while making a pilgrimage to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. What ensues is a very eventful road trip in which Christ and the devil do battle for the heathen’s soul. The flashback-driven drama proceeds to alternate between the sons’ spiritually-oriented sojourn and recreations of their dads’ similar discussions of the virtues of Christianity over the course of their fateful tour of duty overseas.
Thus unfolds Faith Of Our Fathers, a faith-based modern parable directed and co-written by Corey Scott (Hidden Secrets). Fair warning: while the movie does feature wholesome family fare, its occasional proselytizing (“Know that Jesus loves you and that you can trust Him.”) is distracting, but not so overpowering as to spoil the experience.
Look for Born Again Baldwin Brother Stephen in a scene-stealing performance as Sergeant Mansfield, the only character to appear both in the past and in present scenes. In 1969, we find him chastising Steven for preparing the men in his unit to die. But, he’s singing a different tune 25 years later when he conveniently intervenes in a deus ex machina moment.
A latter-day variation on the Prodigal Son parable providing proof that God still works in mysterious ways.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening July 17, 2015
Ant-Man (PG-13 for violence) 12th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series stars Paul Rudd in the title role as an incredible, shrinking super-hero whose strength is inversely proportionate to his size. Plot revolves around his planning a heist with the help of his mentor (Michael Douglas) in order to save the world. Cast includes Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, T.I., Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale and Wood Harris.
Irrational Man (R for profanity and sexuality) Woody Allen directed this midlife crisis drama about a jaded, just-dumped, philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix) looking for a fresh start at a small Rhode Island college where he proceeds to get involved with a student (Emma Stone) as well as the wife (Parker Posey) of a faculty member. With Betsy Aidem, Ethan Phillips, Joe Stapleton and Jamie Blackley.
Trainwreck (R for nudity, profanity, drug use and graphic sexuality) Romantic comedy about a reporter (Amy Schumer) who reconsiders her reluctance to commit to a relationship when she finds herself falling for the charming doctor (Bill Hader) she’s been assigned to write an article about. Ensemble cast includes Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, John Cena, LeBron James, Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, Method Man, Amar’e Stoudemire, Matthew Broderick, Marv Albert and Vanessa Bayer.
Alleluia (Unrated) Suspense thriller revolving around a seductive womanizer (Laurent Lucas) who enters an unholy alliance with a lonely widow (Lola Duenas) after they share a very passionate, one-night stand. With Helena Noguerra, Edith Le Merdy and Anne-Marie Loop. (In French with subtitles)
Bonobos: Back To The Wild (Unrated) Endangered species biopic about Claudine Andre (Rebecca Hall), the renowned primatologist who has dedicated her career to saving the Congo’s Bonobo apes. Co-starring Luke Evans and featuring an appearance by Andre herself.
Boulevard (R for profanity and sexuality) The late Robin Williams stars in the out-of-the-closet drama as a banker in a marriage of convenience tempted to leave his wife (Kathy Bates) of 26 years for a handsome male prostitute (Roberto Aguire) he picks up on the street. With Bob Odenkirk, Giles Matthey and Eleonore Hendricks.
Caffeinated (Unrated) Java documentary highlighting the role coffee plays in cultures all around the world. (In English, Italian, Spanish and Korean)
A Hard Day (Unrated) Korean crime thriller about a police detective (Sun-kyun Lee) who is accused of corruption, served divorce papers, learns of his mother’s death, and is involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident, all within a 24-hour period. With Jin-woong Jo, Dong-Young Kim and Jeong-geun Sin. (In Korean with subtitles)
Lila & Eve (R for violence and profanity) Revenge thriller about a grief-stricken mother (Viola Davis) who tracks down her son’s drive-by killers on the advice of another mourning mom (Jennifer Lopez) she meets at a support group. Support cast includes Yolonda Ross, Shea Whigham and Aml Ameen.
The Look Of Silence (PG-13 for mature themes) Justice delayed documentary follows the search by siblings who survived the Indonesian genocide for the men who killed their brother. (In Indonesian with subtitles)
Mr. Holmes (PG for mature themes, disturbing images and smoking) Ian McKellen plays Sherlock Holmes in this murder mystery, set in 1957, which finds the aging sleuth attempting to solve an unsolved case with the help of his housekeeper’s (Laura Linney) precocious young son (Milo Parker). With Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan and Colin Starkey as Dr. Watson. (In English and Japanese with subtitles)
Safelight (R for profanity and sexual references) Romance drama, set in the ’70s, about a couple of teens (Juno Temple and Evan Peters) who embark on a road trip to photograph lighthouses located along the California coast. Co-starring Kevin Alejandro, Meaghan Martin and Christine Lahti.
The Stanford Prison Experiment (R for profanity, sexual references and abusive behavior) Psychological thriller inspired by the 1971 study conducted by Professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) in which college students were enlisted to serve as guards and inmates in a mock penitentiary. Featuring Ezra Miller, Olivia Thirlby and Tye Sheridan.