Wednesday, April 17, 2024

‘The Curse of Bridge Hollow’ is A Lack of Imagination

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The Curse of Bridge Hollow is a family horror film in the vein of Mr. Boogedy, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and Halloween is Grinch Night. The main difference is that the film seems to be skewering younger and lacks the ability to sustain any real sense of menace, terror, or any kind of mood at all. 

Surprising since the director Jeff Wadlow is no stranger to horror with Fantasy Island and Truth or Dare, not to mention, his work on the tv series Bates MotelThe Curse of Bridge Hollow has a good movie somewhere inside, but what Wadlow and his writers Todd Berger and Robert Rugan give us, is not it.

curse of bridge hollow
Howard (Marlon Wayans) fights a possessed stuffed clown

Berger and Rugan’s script has an annoying tendency to skip over scenes that would be interesting and instead tell us about them as opposed to showing them. Then again seeing how Wadlow flattens out every scene into its least interesting version it may not be entirely their fault. 

The Curse of Bridge Hollow is the age-old tale of a family moving from the city to a small New England town. In movies like these, the family is usually hoping to escape the hustle and dangers of the big city only to discover the horrors of rural seaside towns are more deadly than your average mugging. The family here is the Gordons.

There’s Howard (Marlon Wayans) the skeptical father and high school science teacher. Emily (Kelly Rowland) the health-conscious mother who spends the movie sighing and being mocked because she can’t cook. This leaves us with Sydney (Priah Ferguson) the teenage daughter who is growing weary of her over-protective father and is conflicted about the move.

I’ll give Berger and Rugan’s script this, I liked how Ferguson’s Sydney wasn’t thoroughly cliche. Unlike most teenagers in these movies, Sydney, while not wild about the move, also seems curious and eager to explore her new home. Unlike her skeptical father, Sydney seems fascinated by the unexplained and the world around her.

The Curse of Bridge Hollow for all its faults does a good job of showing how Sydney is like her father but hasn’t yet reached the point where she has made up her mind about anything. Much of the drama between Sydney and Howard comes from how the two view the world. Howard believes everything is explainable by science while Sydney thinks there may be some things science can’t answer. 

Sydney conducts seances with a digital Ouija board, discovers old relics hidden in the walls of her new house, lights an old Jack-O-Lantern she finds locked in a box, and unleashes the spirit of an old Puritan settler Sinister Jack. Because this is a kid’s movie Sinister Jack isn’t really all that sinister. His grand scheme is to make sure Halloween lasts forever and bring the town’s Halloween decorations to life.

Berger and Rugan’s script is riddled with cliches, all of them tired. Take Howard, for example. He is the cliched skeptic. He is a man of science who seems wildly incurious both to the world around him and to the very strange things happening around him. Unlike Sydney, he takes an embarrassingly amount of time to come to grips that his daughter has unwittingly unleashed a sinister spirit who has animated all the Halloween decorations in town.

I couldn’t help rolling my eyes whenever Howard would invariably talk about how science has the answer to everything. Science doesn’t have the answer to everything, it’s how we find the answers. Then came the scene in which Howard and Sydney enter the high school haunted house chasing after Sinister Jack, called “The Kreepy Karnevil”. Howard lectures one of the kids on the incorrect spelling of the sign.

At this moment Howard is revealed to be the most realistic thing in the entire movie. He’s not a skeptic, he’s something worse. He’s Neil Degrasse Tyson.

Thankfully he’s played by Marlon Wayans, a talented and funny comedic actor who is better than the material he’s working with. However, The Curse of Bridge Hollow can’t seem to decide if he’s the straight man or the comic relief. Wayans plays him as both. When he’s with Sydney he’s the pompous father who is constantly brought down a peg by his own vanity. Yet, he’s the straight man to the film’s minor characters such as his next-door neighbor Sully (Rob Riggles), Mayor Tammy (Lauren Lapkus), or the uptight Principal Floyd (John Michael Higgins) who turns out to be an Occultist.

Luckily, the duo has help in the form of a trio of teenage paranormal investigators. Ramona (Abi Monterey) is the goth leader of the trio, Jamie (Holly J. Barrett) is the bright and cheery one of the group, and the team is rounded out with Mario (Myles Perez) the one who serves withering looks and biting sarcasm. The trio is a nifty idea and for a brief second, I was hoping we’d get a movie about teenage Scooby-Doo gang or Ghostbusters which are almost always a good time. But they are barely given enough time to even establish their characters beyond first impressions.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Rowland. Unlike Wayans, who has been in his fair share of horror spoofs, she’s actually been in a legit horror movie, Freddy Vs. Jason. Wadlow and the script use her as a punching bag for tired old “my wife can’t cook” jokes, a referee for father/daughter squabbles, only to in the end make her the damsel in distress as Sinister Jack tries to drag her to hell. 

I realize that the last part makes The Curse of Bridge Hollow seem scarier and cooler than it is. I’m sorry. It’s not.

The Curse of Bridge Hollow is a movie for kids but I’m not sure which kind. Wadlow isn’t able to capture any kind of eerieness or creepy vibe despite having disfigured homicidal clowns stalking Sydney and Howard like zombies. He seems hampered by the limitations of what is essentially a made for tv Halloween special. The film’s biggest weakness is not that Wadlow has no personality; but that the film has none.

Just because you are a Halloween special for kids doesn’t mean you have to be boring. The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t is by no means a masterpiece but it has a personality and charm to it that The Curse of Bridge Hollow lacks.

It’s a pity that one of the most inventive and fun things in the film is the “Kreepy Karnevil” sign. Yes, I laughed, Riggle is always funny, and I loved how Higgins and Lapkus’s exaggerated characters gave the film what little sense of place it had. Still, The Curse of Bridge Hollow is the curse of blandness that hangs over everything like a pall.

Images courtesy of Netflix

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