The Gallows remains one of the true modern Hollywood success stories. Released in 2015, the micro-budget horror flick was made for just $100,000 and went on to gross a staggering $43 million at the global box office. Now, directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff are finally back with a sequel, The Gallows Act II, which brings back The Hangman for more horror goodness this Halloween.
I was fortunate enough to speak with the filmmaking duo, Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff, ahead of the movie’s release. We talked about the relatively long gap between installments, how they feel about found footage and much more.
Just to start out, I think there have been a little bit confusion about where this movie was. There were reports that it had been finished for a little bit. So what was the process? How long have you guys been working on this? And at what point was it finished? I would just love to get that clarified.
Chris Lofing: A little bit of background. Actually, from the get go the sequel was always kind of off the grid. I should say we made it very similar to how we made the first film, actually. Very outside the system. Very independent. We we’re very on our own and just going and making it. So from the get go it was kind of in secret. So when it was finished we started showing it to the right people and getting getting feedback. Kind of like the first film. And yeah, you’re right. It was actually finished a while ago. We did a screening and there were some news that kind of leaked out saying, “Oh, I think Gallows II is finished! It’s out there!” Back in 2017 is when that happened. And then the remainder of that time was really just getting it to the studio, fulfilling all the requirements. You know, there’s a lot that has to happen to a movie.
Travis Cluff: A lot of business affairs stuff, to be honest.
Chris Lofing: Business affairs, paperwork, a lot of that kind of stuff. And because the movie was so outside the system to begin with, there was a little bit more of that for us. The kind of structural stuff to get it finished, get all the T’s crossed, I’s dotted. Then they finally gave us a great window for release and it’s finally seeing the light of day.
Travis Cluff: We’re excited about the timing of it. Obviously it took a while. And for us, we’re really independent filmmakers. We’ve been making films that way and then creating relationships with great people in the industry. Like Blumhouse and, like Lionsgate for this. We’re excited to be working with him. We’re excited for this window and this opportunity to release this Halloween, it’s very exciting.
You guys mentioned, you get this release window right on Halloween, and there just aren’t that many big studio horror movies coming out this year right on Halloween. So what’s it like for you guys to kind of be that movie this year?
Chris Lofing: Yeah you’re right. It’s strange. Usually there’s a lot of big, core franchise movies coming out around Halloween, and this time there just isn’t. It’s surprising. But we’re grateful. We’re extremely grateful that we’re coming out at this time. It feels like a great window for this movie, and it’s a great movie for people who watch and get scared by. Really, we feel that way. We like to make movies that we believe we would enjoy watching with other people and we feel like we accomplished at with this one. So it’s very exciting.
One thing, between both movies, I feel like when you when you enter into franchise territory, especially with horror, you get into the whole horror icon thing. You guys have The Hangman and I feel like The Hangman has everything you want from one of those iconic horror figures. So did The Hangman come first and where you’re like “Oh, let’s build something around that.” Or did it just fortunately develop as a result of the story?
Travis Cluff: Interestingly enough, we were talking about villains or antagonists, we did want to find something that we hadn’t seen before, but also we fought very hard for a PG 13 rating, meaning we made them specifically for that. We didn’t want to have someone with knives and axes and swords just chop people up with blood and guts all over the place. We wanted something more supernatural. And a rope. We thought, we hadn’t seen that before. We hadn’t seen a Hangman before. This is interesting, let’s go this route and we can really make it something that kind of that realm of PG 13 and also brings in that new kind of icoic villain that’s different. It’s not the ax or the machete, or the knife with a sharp edge. But it’s funny because the movie is, “for disturbing sequences of terror,”It’s still rated R. Both were. We were a little surprised by that. It’s kind of a compliment though.
Chris Lofing: We think that ultimately is the scariest type of Villain, when the viewer has to kind of fill in the blanks. They’re left to fill in the scariest blanks. Their imagination is what’s gonna be scary to them. Much like this Shark in Jaws. That’s kind of what we’re trying to capture with Charlie and The Hangman where the less you see him the more mysterious he gets. So we’re happy to be coming back for the sequel, happy to see a little bit more of him, in different cinematic style, which is cool.
You guys touched on this a little bit but I find, personally, one of the things I’m most fascinated by is like the relativity of success. And I ask this because the first movie was made for a dime, and you did really well, relatively speaking, at the box office. But that same box office gross for a big action movie wouldn’t have been considered a success. So how do you guys personally, as filmmakers, define success for your projects?
Chris Lofing: That’s a great question.
Travis Cluff: I think the first Gallows was a big success for us, personally, in a couple of different ways. One, definitely in the financial sense. Seeing those numbers, going from $100,000 tiny movie to $43 million worldwide. That’s awesome and we we’re so grateful to even have the opportunity to show it on a worldwide stage like that. We had no idea how we we’re going to get the movie in the hands of those who ultimately got it at Warner Bros. and New Line. But it was awesome. Playing alongside movie theaters like Minions and, I forget what else was out at that time. But it was big movies, and that was awesome. But also it opened the door for us as filmmakers to so many people in the industry. New collaborators, studios, production companies. All these people we got to meet along the way. So, in that regard as well it was a huge success for us.
Chris Lofing: Just the fact that we were able to capture lightning in a bottle, and to be an anomaly in the system, it was really cool because if we were hearing our story told by someone else, it could happen to them, I would think, “Man, that’s amazing. That’s inspiring.” It’s insane. We’re so grateful that it happened to us. That we put forth the effort that we did. These independent guys, just two guys in our backyard making a movie and seeing those kind of results. It’s the kind of story I would want to hear about anyone. They cared about their dreams, you know? So for us it’s great that we get to experience it.
So there’s been a little gap between the first and the second one, and you guys very specifically bill this as an Act II. Do you feel as the guys who made this movie, do you feel that, people who may be missed, the first one could go walk into this one and feel like they’re getting a complete story? Or is it pretty dependent on seeing both?
Travis Cluff: You know, honestly, we did a screening early on in the process, we did a test screening of The Gallows II and overwhelmingly the audience said no, you don’t have to see the first one to understand the second one. A majority of them thought that. So it was cool to hear that. I think obviously the experience of seeing the sequel is gonna be enhanced by seeing first one for sure. Just the characters and some ties that you’ll recognize, and that’ll be fun and give you a little additional flavor and color of the story. But I think we did a pretty good job of making it its own thing. Its own extension of the universe. New characters, new places, a new story to tell
Chris Lofing: Without lying on the first film.
Travis Cluff: Right. I hope that what we’ve accomplished, but obviously, if people have seen the first, that’d be even better. We just found out that the first one’s gonna be playing on AMC Fear Fest this Halloween.
Fear Fest is such a great way to discover stuff. That’s one of the few things on traditional TV that I still will go out of my way for because it’s so great. So that must be pretty cool.
Travis Cluff: It is. Yeah, it’s great. We’re big fans of that.
Found footage specifically kind of has, at least at one point, it kind of got an iffy rap. It felt like it was getting overused. But how do you guys, as filmmakers feel about it? How do you use it as a tool instead of something that could be perceived as a gimmick?
Travis Cluff: Despite what a lot of people might think, it’s very hard to do it well, to get it right, and to make it feel believable. All of the things that we look for in found footage. Why are they holding the camera? Why are they filming this? Why is there light? All of those things. It’s very challenging to tell your story and manage all those things, and make the movie entertaining. It’s seen some highs and lows. Because of that, we decided to do something a little different with the sequel. We wanted to do something a little more traditional and use the found footage to highlight certain, to heighten those realistic moments.
Chris Lofing: But we were able to pivot from that into this new cinematic style of storytelling in The Gallows: Act II. We think that that was a fun change. It was honestly a little bit easier to film from a production standpoint and editing standpoint.
What’s next for you guys?
Chris Lofing: Honestly, we feel that we’ve got a lot of great opportunities come our way, and a lot of them have to do with us still kind of doing our own content. We have a state of like five or six films that we’re gearing up and getting ready to go into. We also met with some really great and talented writer/directors that we’re gonna help produce We’re gonna have a lot of things that are coming out in the next few years. We actually just wrapped filming on a movie called Held that we cultivated a writer. She’s new to it. She’s an actress and a writer. We were kind of like, let’s start developing other people and give them the opportunities that we had. We feel really, really blessed to be in a position where we are, and we want to find the other talents and cultivate them and help bring them up in the business and show them the same kind of love that we’ve received from the industry.
The Gallows: Act II arrives in theaters, On Demand and Digital on October 25 from Lionsgate.