'Gallows' filmmakers go for 'wholesome' horror
Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff are best friends and partners in the company that created the found-footage horror movie "The Gallows," in theaters now.
Lofing comes from Beatrice, Nebraska, the setting of "The Gallows," where the accidental hanging of a high school actor during a school play has supernatural repercussions 20 years later.
Cluff hails from Fresno, California, where he met Lofing while he was filming his thesis movie for a degree from the New York Film Academy (actually in Los Angeles). I pummeled them with questions during a Chicago visit last week:
Q. Were you surprised by the movie's R rating?
Lofing. We actually shot this movie for a PG-13 rating. We were trying to do the most wholesome horror movie we could possibly do without skimping on the scares. We ended up making it too scary and wound up with an R.
Q. Did you bone up on previous found-footage movies or make "The Gallows" from scratch?
Lofing. We studied technique mostly. "The Blair Witch Project" was one we looked at. We had planned to do certain things in our movie, but then we saw the "Blair Witch" had already done them, too, like not giving the actors the whole script, filming at night, keeping the actors on-edge and so they don't know exactly what's going to happen.
We had them use their own real names so when someone called them by their names, they wouldn't hesitate to respond.
Cluff. There are very specific limitations if you want to do a good job in presenting a found-footage movie. Anyone can throw together some video clips from an iPhone, but is that really worth watching? We were always making sure there was a logical reason for everything happening. We had to take time to set things up.
Lofing. "Chronicle" was another film we saw during production that we thought was really cool and gave us some ideas. The "Paranormal Activity" franchise as well.
Cluff. We had a hand in just about every aspect of the film: camera work, makeup, editing, effects, writing, directing, producing, props, location. My wife did the catering. She did a great job, by the way. It was a very guerrilla-style shoot.
Q. Your movie opens with a faked scene of a student actor "accidentally" being hanged on a high school stage in front of a local audience, who didn't know it was going to happen. Were people upset?
Lofing. They were shocked. It was really great. To capture that kind of moment by the audience was really cool for us to get. We rehearsed a false scene with an unsuspecting audience a couple of times. When the cameras were rolling, that's when we pulled the lever, so to speak. We filmed that scene on the 13th day of filming, which was Friday the 13th in 2012. We had to get it right on the first go.
Q. Was there anything you didn't get into the movie because of time or budget constraints?
Lofing. Ultimately, we did get what we wanted. We're sending our baby off to college! With all its strengths and weaknesses, we love it all the same. We feel like it's very strong and we're very happy about that.