Review by Cole Groth
Netflix’s recent Halloween flicks have been a bust, with 2020’s Hubie Halloween standing out as a particularly unfunny and childish attempt at horror-comedy. While The Curse of Bridge Hollow is a notable improvement over that film, it still has the same problems that the Adam Sandler-starrer had. With a short runtime, an interesting cast that goes to waste, and minimal scares to be seen, this film doesn’t stand out as anything but a Halloween film without any ambition.
Starring Stranger Thing’s Priah Ferguson, The Curse of Bridge Hollow follows the Gordon family, who has just moved to the “safest small town in America,” Bridge Hollow. Sydney (Ferguson) is remarkably similar to Erika on Stranger Things, who shares her sassy mannerisms and fun sense of adventure. She doesn’t get along with her Halloween-hating dad, Howard (Marlon Wayans), but has a moderately close bond with her mom, Emily (Kelly Rowland). Emily’s obsession with gluten-free, vegan, nut-free baking occupies most of her time, so she’s not nearly as important as the other goofy characters found throughout the film. After a curse gets let loose on the night of Halloween which brings the town’s overabundance of spooky (but mostly silly) decorations to life, it’s up to Howard and Sydney to defeat the spooky evils that haunt Bridge Hollow.
Similar to Hubie Halloween, this film relies a whole lot on the zany town members to drive the humor, which grows to be rather irritating after a while. John Michael Higgins, Lauren Lapkus, and Rob Riggle are in the film for their comedic abilities, but they aren’t given a good enough script to make any quality laughs. At most, you’ll get a few sharp breaths out of your nose, but at worst you’ll find yourself incredibly frustrated by the childish nature of the characters. Nobody feels very real, and when it’s not trying to be funny, this film doesn’t do that well with the emotional stuff either. Howard and Sydney’s father-daughter dynamic just isn’t interesting enough to seem like anything but a distraction from the potentially interesting story.
As far as scares go, don’t even kid yourself. Ignore the TV-14 rating on this film, because you’re watching a film for small children. With this rating, it would’ve been possible for some actual scares, gore, or mature themes to be explored, but the surface is barely scratched at the end of the admittedly refreshing 91-minute runtime. Now, if this was treated like the TV-PG rating that it deserves, this isn’t a bad option to put on for families. There are some funny gags with the mechanics of the curse, and a decent message of family love to be found. It’s not an entirely pointless watch, and it runs at a fast enough pace to keep people with short attention spans entertained.
Within Bridge Hollow, the curse grows throughout the night, and in this same way, the film becomes stronger as it moves on. Most of the first and second act are just build-up to an entertaining adventure that is the third act. As Sydney and her group of friends enlists the help of some of the town members, the action scales in a way that keeps most of the last 30 minutes to be very exciting. It’s pretty hard to hate this film by the ending because it’s at least mildly entertaining and doesn’t require too much energy to follow along.
Technically, The Curse of Bridge Hollow is decent. The score from Christopher Lennertz and cinematography from Davis Hennings and James McMillan is serviceable at worst and fun at best. What the script (cobbled together by four different writers) lacks in actual depth, the production design matches with plain looking sets. However, the monsters that attack the town throughout the night are well designed and stood out as uniquely interesting enemies. As far as Halloween films go, this film feels like a flashback to your childhood. Trick-or-treating isn’t scary in the slightest, and while The Curse of Bridge Hollow won’t keep you scared, it’s reminiscent of actual Halloween night in that way. Don’t go into this expecting anything that great, but this is at least enough fun to not be a complete waste.
The Curse of Bridge Hollow releases exclusively on Netflix on October 14th.