Serving as a direct sequel, The Gallows: Act II is a sharp departure from the original. For the most part, the movie abandons the found footage genre in favor of a strange and unique tone that spins the potential franchise into an unexpected direction.
The Gallows: Act II follows a new character, Auna Rue, portrayed in the film by Ema Horvath (Like. Share. Follow.), as she transfers to a new acting school. Once there she starts to build a large online following for her blog by participating in the latest viral challenge, “The Charlie Challenge“, where players potentially come into contact with a ghost named Charlie. Charlie is, of course, the character from the first movie who met his death during a production of a play called The Gallows. From there, it doesn’t take long for Auna to realize the game might be more than spooky fun, as she and everyone she knows are suddenly thrust into mortal danger.
“[…] a strange and unique tone that spins the potential franchise into an unexpected direction.”
A large portion of The Gallows: Act II focuses on the budding relationship between Auna and her new crush, Cade Parker, portrayed by Chris Milligan. In a lot of ways, Auna and Cade appear to be polar opposites, especially when it comes to an interest in acting and theater. Auna‘s family doesn’t seem supportive of her dreams, while Cade comes from an acting family and doesn’t have any interest in pursuing the profession for himself. The differences between the two characters sets up a familiar “opposites attract” scenario, and viewers are given a story that is akin to many teen romances. But, unfortunately, the love story on display here isn’t all that engaging.
The romantic and easy-going tone of The Gallows: Act II is so different from the first movie that it might initially be disconcerting to fans of the original. But, with just a little knowledge of theatrical story structure, it appears that the filmmakers have written a more intelligent screenplay that deserves a second glance. The theme of a cursed stage play is an interesting concept and one that runs throughout the production of both movies. When looking at the two Gallows movies in relation to theater, I began to appreciate Act II a bit more. It is very common for each act of a play to have a vastly different tone from the one that came before.
While the first movie plays like something similar to Fear Street or Paranormal Activity, The Gallows: Act II is more akin to an after school special. The beginning half of the sequel is an extremely slow build, especially considering that the movie is billed as horror. Other than a shockingly horrific opening death scene, most of the first half focuses on Auna and Cade‘s budding romance. It is a choice that will have many horror fans scratching their heads and likely abandoning the movie altogether. But the scary stuff is worth hanging in for.
The horror scenes are in stark contrast to everything else that surrounds them. It is a cinematic trick that makes the terror all the more effective. A lot of the movie appears to be pretty bland (I believe intentionally so), but many of the visuals found within the death scenes stick with the viewer long after the credits roll. It is important to note that the sequel doesn’t completely disregard the first movie. In addition to Charlie, another major player from the original is worked into the storyline later in the film. The look of the masked killer is fun, and I could imagine the character expanding into a longer franchise.
“The Gallows: Act II is not for everyone […but] it is the big jump in tone that works in the film’s favor.”
In addition to the contrasts between romance and horror, one of the highlights of The Gallows: Act II is the creative production design. There are several set constructions that have the appearance of gallows. The design is subtle and could easily be missed, but it is a clever way to reinforce the idea of the haunted stage play bleeding over into the real world.
I’m going to be honest… The Gallows: Act II is not for everyone. And truthfully, it is not even for every die-hard fan of the original. Without a doubt, viewer reactions will be divided between good and bad. I didn’t love it, and I didn’t hate it, but I enjoyed what I saw. Ultimately, it is the big jump in tone that works in the film’s favor. For the most part, I feel like the filmmakers achieved what they set out to do. For horror fans looking for something different, I’d say give this one a chance. Even though the ending can be viewed as a suitable conclusion to the overall story, it also lends itself to an array of possibilities for another installment. It is common for stage plays to include up to five acts and I’m willing to stick with this series to see where it goes.
The Gallows: Act II opens in select theaters, DVD, and streaming services on October 25, 2019. In addition to Horvath, The Gallows: Act II stars Chris Milligan (TV’s Neighbors) and Brittany Falardeau (House of Darkness). Like the original, the film was written and directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. Are you a fan of the original? Will you be checking out the sequel? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!