In 2019, audiences thought they were going to be reintroduced to Samara, a little girl whose spirit haunts a freaky videotape that causes viewers to die in seven days, with the release of Rings. Instead, it played like a cheap repeat of not so great moments to exploit a gimmick that worked when a VHS was actually a thing you could easily find. Rings barely updated the story, keeping the VHS intact while waiting until the ending to modernize the story. The film left us with a glimpse into a what could have been a scary entry that will never happen due to the response of that film. THE GALLOWS ACT II is a sequel to a film that didn’t leave as big of a mark, if any, but still utilized modern technology to give us a different take of the same story, something I wanted greatly from Rings.
An aspiring viral vlogger, Auna (Ema Horvath) transfers to another prestigious California high school to get involved with their acting program. Her hero is an actress who’s monologues are utilized for her auditions. Her nerves get the best of her and her initial act is a disaster. However, she still carries an air of confidence that’s refreshing as she stands up for the bullied and allows herself to be open to a first date.
Auna is modest enough to interact with her YouTube subscribers (all 198 of them). One of her fans suggests she completes and films a viral challenge involving reading a passage from the supposedly cursed play called “The Gallows.” She plays it off as a joke, as one of her previous videos involved her messing with an Ouija board that left her unscathed. She films the video to no event, but wakes up to thousands of views and comments referencing a scary moment she doesn’t recall. Auna re-watches the video and sees what everyone is talking about. Her ego gets a huge boost and Auna films more of the play, but summons up a spirit that leaves her terrified at night.
If you haven’t seen The Gallows, then there’s no reason to rush in seeing it in order to understand this sequel. While fans of the original will grasp more of the easter eggs, the directors were smart in creating a film that stands on its own without concerning viewers with continuity.
THE GALLOWS ACT II almost plays as a satire about a generation obsessed with fame and seeking outside validation. It does so in a subtle way that you have to respect them for. Unfortunately, the movie is slowly paced and it’s hard to feel for the characters as they feel quite vanilla without anyone to root for. It attempts to create backstories for them, but the execution leaves them unnecessary as the scares prove to be the more interesting aspect of the movie. With that being said, there’s plenty of scares to have fun with and I was glad to see the movie playing with both standard filmmaking and found footage. Cell phones and webcams provide some of the fun and practical gimmicks used whereas the original film felt very CGI.
THE GALLOWS ACT II isn’t going to change the game nor is it a horror game-changer, but it’s totally going to work for some thirteen-year-olds who rent this on a stormy, Saturday night. THE GALLOWS ACT II is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital and includes special features such as audio commentary with writers and directors Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing, deleted scenes, and a featurette that focuses on the staging of the film.