The Curse of Bridge Hollow (2022)
Director: Jedd Wadlow
Screenwriters: Todd Berger, Robert Rugan
Starring: Priah Ferguson, Marlon Wayans, Kelly Rowland, John Michael Higgins, Lauren Lapkus, Rob Riggle
Family spooky films used to be all the rage, with films such as the live-action Scooby-Doo and The Addams Family being beloved favourites for certain generations. The Curse of Bridge Hollow tries to do likewise, to give Netflix their all-age spookfest with the starpower of ‘Stranger Things’ star Priah Ferguson, bringing a mix of child-friendly horror to a small town where a curse is unleashed on Halloween night, animating all the decorations. It is, of course, up to our new residents in town, Sydney (played by Ferguson) and her dad (Marlon Wayans), to evade the rampant monsters, find out how to stop the evil they’ve unleashed, and prevent his plan by midnight, or else every day in Bridge Hollow will be Halloween Night.
Have you ever sat there and thought ‘I’d like to see Erica from ‘Stranger Things’ beat up the Killer Klowns From Outer Space from the 1988 movie of the same name?’ Because that’s what you get here. Don’t misunderstand, it’s entertaining, and Ferguson does a reasonable job with her character despite that character being irritatingly a carbon-copy of her hit show counterpart, but it also highlights the fundamental problem with The Curse of Bridge Hollow; it doesn’t know who it is targeting.
There’s enough in the film to have a good time with if you’re after goofy, silly fun. There’s a half decent dynamic between father and daughter, albeit one forced purely to have some character development through the film. And there’s a nice score which works for a spooky John Williams fun vibe.
But the film, in trying to be something for both the kids and the parents to watch together, has tried to put its eggs in one basket. And, by doing so, has misunderstood the assignment.
The Curse of Bridge Hollow puts horror Easter eggs in for the parents. such as a statue of Jason, the aforementioned Killer Klowns from Outer Space, having to go to a house at 666 Elm Street, etc., and has the main character arc revolve around the father, Howard. It has to drag him around for the ride in order to force a ‘forget science and embrace the supernatural so that you can learn to face your fears of not understanding’ storyline down our throats. Not even in a subtle way, because… kids films – we can’t do subtlety here. And what nine year old, loving the spooky shenanigans occurring, wants his character arc over the young girl’s? Why can’t they both have strong arcs?
The worst thing this film does, however, is favour this storyline to the detriment of what could be a genuinely great film revolving around young teenagers stopping the events happening.
In Bridge Hollow is a trio of kids who call themselves the Bridge Hollow Paranormal Society, played by Abi Monterey, Holly J. Barrett, and Myles Perez respectively. Sydney hooks up with them fairly early on, and the three ghost hunters eventually join the party as they go around solving the mystery and running away from killer animatronics – but they also end up being left out of the big finale. Why could the film not revolve around this society (who were great in every moment they were on screen), for a kind of family-friendly Stephen King film? They’re distinctive enough, fun when they’re around, and don’t get nearly the attention they deserve because the film tries to focus on the family storyline which is by far not as interesting as the film thinks it is.
Since there’s obvious sequel-bait at the end, one can only hope that if this survives to be popular enough we get a spin-off series revolving around this Paranormal Society, exploring the other legends of Bridge Hollow (maybe each episode inspired by another classic horror tale, like Sleepy Hollow did for this one), and we’re all fine and good. A family friendly horror series for those that aren’t quite old enough for ‘Stranger Things’; a new ‘Goosebumps’.
The Curse of Bridge Hollow isn’t the worst film in the world. At times it is fun and enjoyable. It’s simply muddled and mixed because, even without the reliance on CGI (including burning a piece of paper with visual effects, because obviously we couldn’t do that for real), it doesn’t know exactly who it is talking to. Instead of trying to bring two generations together, it has instead split them apart. Younger audiences won’t get the references and adult storyline, and the older audiences will find it tame and bloodless. There was potential here, real potential, squandered purely by a mishandling of the premise back in the boardroom meetings.