THE GALLOWS: ACT II / CERT: 15 / DIRECTORS & SCREENPLAY: TRAVIS CLUFF, CHRIS LOFING / STARRING: EMA HORVATH, CHRIS MILLIGAN, BRITTANY FALARDEAU / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (ON DEMAND/SKY STORE)
Back in 2015, Blumhouse backed handheld horror The Gallows looked to craft a new icon in Charlie Grimille, a young lad that lost his life on stage in a noose mishap at a 1993 school production of play called "The Gallows", only to return all those years later as a vengeful hooded spirit to trap, haunt and stalk a bunch of young ‘uns in the school theatre after dark. Despite harsh critical responses, there were big box office returns ($43 million on a $100,000 budget) for Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing’s found footage frightener. So, here comes Charlie once again for The Gallows: Act II.
This time, the film focuses on aspiring actress - and seeker of an online following - Ana Rue (Ema Horvath), whose arrival at a fancy new school raises her hopes that she can finally ‘make it’. But when the young lady decides to embark on a viral trend known as the “Charlie Challenge”, her desires are tested and twisted by an evil presence.
The Gallows: Act II (similar to the vastly disappointing [Rec] 3: Genesis) abandons its core ‘shaky cam’ format early on and the results are a big mess of a movie. Rumours had it this secretly shot sequel was put to one side after disastrous test screenings and after watching it, this seems very likely. You just get the distinct impression the makers lost confidence in this some time ago and the longer it goes on, the more it crumbles.
Despite the effort of lead Ema Horvath, very little here makes any sense either on its own merits or particularly as a sequel. There is a clear intention with the script to raise a point about the obsessiveness of pursuing online stardom but it is so badly handled that the film just comes across as garbled and unsure of what it wants to accomplish. The final twist feels placed here simply because the last film had one, unlike that one though, this twist makes not a lick of logical sense and is hardly even built up to.
Characters come and go, each with rushed or creakily delivered “development” and as the scares jump in and out of proceedings, you’re just struck by the ineffectiveness of it all. None of the familiar scares land and they don’t even have the benefit of a creepy setting (like an empty theatre in the first movie) to give them a leg up.
You just cannot help but think that they thought it was a good idea at the time, started rolling and realised it was too late to rethink. As it lands unceremoniously in select theatres/on demand in the US and on Sky Store over here in the UK, it seems sadly clear that this inferior in every way sequel has choked more painfully than poor old Charlie did.