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First Look Review - THE GALLOWS ACT II

the gallows act 2 review
An aspiring actress falls prey to a sinister internet challenge.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing

Starring: Ema Horvath, Chris Milligan, Brittany Falardeau, Pfeifer Brown, Erika Miranda

the gallows act 2 poster




The runaway success of 2007's zero-budget thriller Paranormal Activity kicked off a wave of found-footage horrors that finally drew its last breath a few years ago. 2015's The Gallows was one of the last found-footage movies to receive a mainstream cinema release, and by that point the sub-genre had long shot its creative load. Surprisingly, there's now a sequel, The Gallows Act II, though unsurprisingly it drops the found-footage conceit.

the gallows act 2 review

The first movie introduced the backstory of Charlie Grimille, a high school drama student strangled to death in 1993 when a prop gallows malfunctioned during a school production. That movie followed a group of teens as they became trapped in the school where the grisly incident occurred, recording their demises on a camcorder. Act II sees the introduction of a viral internet challenge known as "The Charlie Challenge," in which participants must film themselves reading an extract from 'The Gallows', the play poor Charlie was performing at the time of his death.

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Taking up the challenge is aspiring actress and high school drama geek Auna (Ema Horvath), who discovers the challenge when she is contacted by a YouTube user named 'AlmostFamous99' (must be a Cameron Crowe fan). Auna tracks down a copy of 'The Gallows' in her school library and films herself reading a passage. She assumes nothing spooky happened, but when she checks her YouTube channel she's surprised to find she's received close to a million views, with commenters pointing out the table moving in the background of its own accord. Fuelled by her newfound online fame, Auna reads another passage, and finds herself drawn further into the murky and dangerous world of Charlie.

the gallows act 2 review

The Gallows Act II was filmed directly after the release of the first movie (which made a whopping $43 million on its $100,000 budget!), but has been held in storage until now. It's easy to see why Blumhouse weren't in a rush to get this into cinemas, as it really is atrocious. The first movie was able to cover up its lack of finances with its found-footage aesthetic, but opting for traditional filmmaking exposes just how shoddy the sequel is. Scenes are harshly lit like daytime soaps, the dialogue is cringe-inducing and though leading lady Horvath has an adorably goofy charisma, she's no Meryl Streep.

the gallows act 2 review

It takes what feels like an age for the meat of The Gallows Act II's plot to kick in, and when it does we're simply treated to a series of blandly staged "look behind you!" scenarios and the usual plethora of lazy jump scares. Given how much time its protagonist spends in front of a webcam, it feels like a missed opportunity that The Gallows Act II didn't adopt the 'Screen Life' format of movies like Unfriended and Searching, and have the whole narrative play out on a laptop screen. This might have covered up just how dated its plot feels- when Auna pays a visit to an asylum where an inmate lays out the backstory in a deranged monologue, I was getting heavy 2003 flashbacks. But no amount of storytelling gimmickry would likely cover up the fact that this is a sequel that exists solely because its predecessor made so much money that it simply had to be made. Something tells me this drama won't have a third act.

The Gallows Act II is in US cinemas and VOD October 25th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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