Cassidy Gifford - lead
Credit: Alex Reside for

If you love a good found-footage thriller, then The Gallows will be your favorite new horror flick. In theaters tomorrow, the film follows a group of theater teens who find themselves locked in their haunted high school overnight—20 years after a student died tragically while performing the very same play. If that doesn’t sound creepy enough, Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum is behind the film, which means you should brace yourself for The Gallows to give you some serious goosebumps.

Even the film’s star Cassidy Gifford—whose mom is Today show co-host Kathie Lee—was freaked out while filming. Understandably so, considering the shoot took place at what’s said to be one of the most haunted places in the U.S, the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Fresno, CA. “Before I got there, I didn’t believe in ghost stories at all,” Gifford told InStyle when she recently stopped by our New York City offices. “Then, the cast dared me to sit in the bathroom for ten minutes alone one day. No one was in there, but three toilets suddenly flushed and then two of the faucets turned on, so I bolted down the hallway and never looked back!”

Fears aside, the 21-year-old had been prepping to star in a thriller for her whole life. “I’ve loved horror movies ever since I was little—my mom always swore that there was something wrong with me because I loved them so much,” she said. Still, “it was actually scary a lot of the time when we were filming,” said Gifford. “There wasn’t always a lot of lighting, so we’d be in the dark and there walking along creaky floor boards in an attic with cobwebs.”

Luckily, Gifford didn’t have to hide her panic while playing the part of a trapped high schooler. “I had to scream and cry a lot on camera, so I ended up losing my voice a lot,” she said, explaining that more goes into those waterworks than you’d think. “You have to drink tons of water to avoid getting dehydrated. It really helps if you’ve just been like pounding water bottles all morning.” Once her tear ducts were good to go, Gifford had to get there mentally—so she kept a secret weapon on deck. “I have a playlist of songs that I listen to called ‘Need to Cry,’” she said. “It just has a lot of really sad country music on it.”

When she wasn’t working up her emotions, Gifford was busy performing her own stunts. “I came out of filming with a lot of bruises and scrapes,” she said. And she had the gruesome photos to prove it—although one person in particular wasn’t a fan of seeing them. “My mom was horrified,” she said. “In the middle of the night, we were filming the scene in the trailer where I’m dragged back, and I’d just send her pictures with no disclaimer. She woke up on the East Coast at like 5 a.m. and called me saying, ‘Can you not do this to me? I’m your mother—I don’t want to see that.’”

To see the shiver-inducing scene that Gifford is referring to, check out the trailer for the film here: