Honestly, The Curse of Bridge Hollow delivered precisely what I needed when I needed it—for the first half.
If Hocus Pocus and Night at the Museum had a baby, they’d get The Curse of Bridge Hollow! It’s a wild ride where a jack-o-turnip gets lit, the Halloween decorations come alive, and a father/daughter duo find common ground. Released to stream on Netflix on October 14th, The Curse of Bridge Hollow stars Priah Ferguson, Marlon Wayans, and Kelly Roland with plenty of appearances from well-known character actors.
It’s a kid’s movie and doesn’t claim to be anything else! It’s giving early 2000s Disney Channel vibes. The Curse of Bridge Hollow was directed by Jeff Wadlow from Kick-Ass 2 and the Are You Afraid of the Dark? reboot, which explains how they got the tone just right. And screenwriter Todd Berger (The Happytime Murders), with the help of Robert Rugan, wrote this classic family adventure with just enough spooky and spoopy energy.
I don’t know that The Curse of Bridge Hollow will be a Halloween classic like Hocus Pocus, but …
It complements the vibe.
Sydney (Priah Ferguson) and her parents move to Bridge Hollow because Dad (Marlon Wayans) got a new job as a science teacher at the High School; Mom (Kelly Roland) is a vegan baker who can’t quite get her healthy deserts to taste good, haha.
Wayans’ character wants his daughter to be a science-loving nerd like he is, but her interests differ. Sydney wanted to take ballet, but Dad made her take Karate. Sydney wanted to start a Paranormal Club, but Dad made her join the Science Club. Thus, The Curse of Bridge Hollow plants the “It’s not my dream, Dad! It’s yours!” trope in the first ten minutes, just like so many other family films of this nature, i.e., Night at the Museum, Halloweentown, etc.
As the family drives to their new home, we’re greeted with Halloween decorations on every lawn. This town is obsessed with Halloween, much like Hocus Pocus, Casper, etc. Their new neighbour, Sully (Rob Riggle), gives them the low down on the enthusiasm for Halloween, yet another excellent character performance from Rob Riggle but short-lived due to his disappearance after the first few decorations come alive.
When the family hits downtown to look around, they’re greeted by Mayor Tammy (Lauren Lapkus), who gives them some more exposition about the town by telling them the legend of “Stingy Jack”, a man so disliked by the town, he was hanged, and thus haunts the residents forever more. Yet another great character actor, Lauren Lapkus, leans into the people-pleaser Mayor trope but, for some reason, with an accent that doesn’t necessarily make any geographical sense.
Tired of the adult conversation, Sydney wanders off on her own into… an alley… that leads… to a CEMETERY!
Someone get me a map of this town! I love it!
In this massive cemetery surrounded by trees with nay a downtown in sight, Sydney meets three Paranormal Society members, Jamie (Holly J. Barrett), Ramona (Abi Monterey) and Mario (Myles Perez). You might ask, what does Sydney do when she meets these three strange, goth children for the first time? She tells them her address, of course! And low and behold, the new girl moved into the haunted house where an old psychic once lived! WE. LOVE. TO. SEE. IT!
Sydney is given an assignment by her new friends: she’s to contact the ghost of Josephine Hawthorn (Nia Vardalos), the psychic who once lived in the house. Sydney uses an iPad Ouija board app to contact a spirit, some spooky stuff happens, and she’s led to the attic, where she finds a chest in the wall. Inside the chest is a jack-o-turnip!
The next day, aka Halloween, Sydney’s fed up with her father not letting her decorate or celebrate Halloween, so she takes matters into her own hands by stopping at a party shop on her way home from school. When Wayans comes home, he’s greeted by a plastic bat on the door and the kitchen island covered in spoopy décor. Wayans tosses the plastic bat from outside in the trash. Sydney and Wayans get into it about Halloween, and underlying it are Sydney’s issues with Wayans’ character’s need to control and protect her.
On the island is the Jack-O-Turnip Sydney found in the attic; she lights it. Dad blows it out. It lights itself back up. Again and again, Dad tries to snuff out the turnip, and finally, he throws the thing in the garbage where the bat from the door is. The bat comes alive!
Now the real adventure begins!
We go through plenty of fight scenes before the climax, and I’ve got to say that they started to get a little boring around the second or third. The story began to slow down to a bit of a crawl when our father/daughter duo went to the school to meet up with her new goth friends. Their presence added to the dynamic, took off some pressure and allowed for more development between father and daughter. I liked that they put kids on bikes; that’s always a good travel montage in this kind of adventure.
However good this premise is, the film’s second half became boring. The jokes weren’t as good, the action wasn’t as good, and the story progression felt convoluted and stretched. It felt less like necessary bumps in the road and more like grasping at spitballs to extend the runtime. We discovered the spell/solution too early; burning the grimoire page wasn’t enough of a setback to keep the audience captivated.
Also, where was the third plot?
You might be able to argue that Kelly Roland’s character trying to sell her vegan goods was the third plot, but in my opinion, it was a running gag, an effort to get her in the right place at the right time, nothing more. There could have been something interesting with actual character development. An added element to Sydney’s storyline with the friends; maybe she had a crush on one of them, perhaps she wasn’t clicking with one of them and had to win them over… just something else that could have filled the void there, something with stakes.
Despite my grievances with the second half, I still think The Curse of Bridge Hollow is a romp! I had fun; I even laughed out loud at points. The aesthetics were great. I think Marlon Wayans gave an admirable laidback performance compared to some of his earlier work, i.e., the Scary Movie franchise. He’s a very talented comedic actor; I could go on with his timing, physical comedy, and delivery. It hasn’t always been my taste, I respect him for it, but sometimes it’s a little over the top for me. I think his performance here was impeccable; it gave goofy when needed and wholesome when required.
Priah Ferguson, as Sydney, gave a decent performance, I think I could still see a bit of her Stranger Things character in it, but it worked! I can’t believe I went this long without mentioning that John Michael Higgins is in this movie! He is another fantastic character actor, playing in the vein of some of his previous work in Pitch Perfect, Bad Teacher, and the Saved by the Bell reboot.
Some of the visual effects aren’t so good. Still, they did a great job going as far as they could with practical effects for the decorations coming alive. I know they filmed in Georgia, USA and Stranger Things films in Georgia, USA, and I can’t say for sure. Still, I would put money to say they filmed on the same lot or location they’ve used for some of Netflix’s hit TV show.
In the end, Sydney and her Dad come to common ground. Her father accepts Sydney for the person she wants to be, and Kelly Roland’s character bakes something edible, haha.
Oh, and they find more hidden chests in the attic wall! OH NO!
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to provide further context regarding the use of the term “G*psy.”