With the massive success of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, we saw a great number of found-footage horror films hitting the multiplex trying to capitalize on the trend. Because these films were extremely cheap to produce, the sub-genre basically took-over horror. 2015’s “The Gallows” was just one of those films. Now, four years later, writer/director’s Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing are back with the sequel, “The Gallows Act II”. However, they decided to go the “Blair Witch” route and leave the found-footage gimmick behind for the follow-up. I believe that was a wise choice, since many horror fans are pretty much over that sub-genre. Does that mean “Act II” is better than the first film? Unfortunately, not.
“The Gallows Act II” centers on Auna Rue (Ema Horvath), a new student at a prestigious high school, who is excited about the acting program. Unfortunately, her first introduction on stage was an embarrassing misfire. Shortly after, Auna comes across a book in the library that will be familiar to those who saw the first film. Yes, it is “The Gallows”. When Auna performs a piece from the mysterious publication for her class, everything changes. She now has the attention of her teacher and the rest of the class. Auna also has grabbed the attention of the popular boy in school, Cade (Chris Milligan). What Auna didn’t realize was that once she started performing scenes from “The Gallows”, she would be calling on a malevolent spirit with some truly nasty plans.
Although Cluff and Lofing took things out of the found-footage format, they still managed to leave a few traces throughout the film. The opening in “Act II” is a bit more in line with what we saw in the first film and there are also a few key sequences involving the internet, sort of like “Unfriended”. But the structure is very different than the original.
I can’t say that the first film was a memorable one. In all honesty, many of the found footage films from the time blended into each other for me. I do remember “The Gallows” having a decent number of jump-scares and sometimes that is all you need, but I don’t remember much else. “Act II” has a few moments of genuine creepiness but for the most part, it is a slog to sit through. Running at about 99 minutes, I wish a good 10-15 minutes were removed to help with the pacing. I probably shouldn’t be, but I am quite surprised that we got a sequel to “The Gallows”, especially four years after the original. I never thought it would turn into a franchise. Regardless, if you were a fan of the 2015 film, you might find a bit to like with the second act, but if you are like me and weren’t sold the first time around, the sequel isn’t going to change anything.
By: Marc Ferman