October 23, 2019 The Gallows Act II (Movie Review)
From the company that produced 2007’s Paranormal Activity and 2010’s Insidious comes the Supernatural Thriller The Gallows Act II. Lionsgate delivers the film to select theaters, as well as On Demand, starting Friday, October 25th, 2019—just in time for Halloween screams.
In the sequel to 2015’s The Gallows, a name has the power to call upon a deadly spirit. As the story goes, teenage vlogger and aspiring actress Auna Rue (Ema Horvath: Like.Share.Follow. 2017, The Two Hundred Fifth short 2019) has just transferred to a prestigious high school in California to benefit from their acting program. The move means taking up residence with her older sister Lisa (Brittany Falardeau: Altar 2016, La Luz de Mis Ojos series), a fashion designer.
Despite things getting off to a janky start at school, Auna soon meets hunky Cade (Chris Milligan: Neighbors series, Arrow series). High on the feeling of things finally beginning to go her way, she is enticed by one of her online viewers to partake in a sinister website, and ultimately finds herself unwittingly entrapped in the malevolent web of “The Gallows,” a cursed stage play. After performing a passage from the script for her small fanbase, her subscriber count skyrockets and it seems that Auna is finally beginning to achieve the stardom that she dreams about. Unfortunately, her stellar performance has locked her into a twisted challenge with a deadly spirit who won’t stop until a sacrifice is made.
Clocking in at 99 minutes, The Gallows Act II was written and directed by the talented duo of Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, who also wrote and directed 2015’s The Gallows and the 2016 short Flicker. It also features the acting talents of Pfeifer Brown (The Gallows 2015, My Many Sons 2016), Dennis Hurley (The Albino Code short 2006, Superstore series), Anthony Jensen (Edtv 1999, D-Railed 2018), Jonathan Worstein (Ham on Rye 2019), and many more.
First thing’s first: do you have to see The Gallows to understand The Gallows Act II? No, not at all. This sequel stands on its own merits, sitting comfortably inside its Supernatural Thriller billing. All the hallmarks of a haunting tale are here—doors close on their own, furniture moves, objects levitate, etc.—all with enough anxiety-building and jump-scares to be wholly unnerving. Much of this intensity of mood is thanks to the great tension built by the film’s original score by Zach Lemmon (Gold Fools 2012, The Gallows 2015), and some darkly haunting cinematography from Kyle Gentz (Flicker short 2016, The Art of Organized Noize documentary 2016).
Of course, the ensemble cast also contribute heavily to the film’s overall success, and leading the way is Horvath as Auna. It’s certainly not easy to communicate the haunted eyes and drawn facial expressions of someone being tormented by an unseen evil, but Horvath embraces her role with a finesse that makes the film truly eerie. In a very meta scene, she is a young actress playing an actress who delivers an emotional monologue from “The Gallows” to her high school Drama class. It’s a truly moving moment, and it displays Horvath’s diverse acting abilities within the confinement of a singular role.
Her on-screen cohorts Falardeau and Milligan are given much less to work with, but they both do wonderfully in their roles. Falardeau’s Lisa is a jealous older sister, also an artist, and one who projects her own fears and insecurities onto Auna. A product of her upbringing, Falardeau’s portrayal of Lisa strengthens our understanding of the pressures placed on Auna to succeed. Meanwhile, Milligan’s Cade is a rather flat character, the cute boy at school whose parents happen to be Auna’s Broadway idols, but he delivers a convincing performance that paves the way for the film’s ultimate success in its final, contorting act.
The downside to The Gallows Act II? It could stand to be shaved down by about 10 minutes runtime to keep its fast-paced thrills flowing better, but otherwise it’s a hit. With some well-done transitions, and a wonderfully unsettling yet artful scene with a white sheet (reminiscent of 2011’s Paranormal Activity 3), the film manages to be deliciously creepy while offering a deeper layer of commentary on the double-edged sword of success.
It’s pretty impressive to find a modern film that sits within the parameters of Horror, and yet has not a single ounce of blood spilled within its runtime. So, while The Gallows Act II is huge on jump-scares and all the usual tricks of the Horror trade, it does this with an artful intensity that creates a truly unnerving tension. We dare you to watch with the lights out! Avoiding stage plays for life, Cryptic Rock give The Gallows Act II 4.5 of 5 stars.