THE GALLOWS ACT II ** USA 2019 Dir: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing. 96 mins
Remember the profitable but wholly ordinary THE GALLOWS from 2015? No one else does either, which probably explains why Blumhouse’s swiftly greenlit sequel has quietly crept out at least two years after early screenings.
An opening phone-cam sequence reminds us of the backstory of the cursed play “The Gallows” while acknowledging the need for fake jump scares every 30 seconds or so. The phone video clip gets 15 million YouTube views and inspires budding actress heroine Ema Horvath – fretting over her own (decreasing) 200 vlog followers – to stage an on-camera “Charlie Challenge” that involves reading aloud from the play.
Although pleasingly abandoning the hackneyed found footage format of its predecessor, ACT II is heavily padded by bland romantic treehouse scenes between Horvath and hunky fellow student Chris Milligan that are only fleetingly perked up when the Gallows-influenced protagonist randomly attempts to choke him to death.
Returning co-directors Cluff and Lofing strive to sustain an eerie ambience with lengthy sequences of the heroine wandering around her darkened house while ghostly figures lurk in the shadows behind her…but audience faith and patience is tested (even by the standards of this sub-genre) by the endless, grating “Sorry, we didn’t mean to scare you!” fake jump scares. One sequence involving Horvath’s sister has so many contrived musical stings en route to its delayed punchline that you actually start to wish for more romantic treehouse scenes.
Like THE GALLOWS, this bows out with a downbeat twist, but it’s too little too late for a mostly lazy sequel. If you want a movie about an insecure teen vlogger, go and watch Bo Burnham’s wonderful EIGHTH GRADE instead. Guaranteed: 100% less jump scares, 100% more genuine dread and no hanging scenes.
Review by Steven West