What happens when a city girl and her family move to a small town? Yes, culture shock and intense boredom are legit answers. But, as I’ve said before, small towns are not simply quiet and (sometimes) picturesque places where people move a lot slower. They are, in fact, the prime location for hellish things to pop off. Weird houses, spooky town lore, and secrets abound in real life… and in horror films too. We get a taste of all of that with the main dish of a Halloween curse in The Curse of Bridge Hollow, an adventure horror comedy flick full of ridiculousness and fun.
Priah Ferguson (whom we all know as Erica from Stranger Things) stars as Sydney Gordon, the new kid in town. Her very logical scientist father Howard (Marlon Wayans) and mom Emily (Kelly Rowland), who bakes awful tasting treats, just made the move from Brooklyn to Bridge Hollow, the “safest town in the US” full of Halloween-obsessed residents. The small town life isn’t what Syd wants… until she discovers that her house is possibly haunted by a medium’s spirit. She inadvertently wraps her dad up into the mix when she sparks a flame that releases a cursed spirit named Stingy Jack. And, things get very wild when the spirit begins to form a sentient army. From what? From the many, many Halloween decorations around them, of course.
As expected, Priah absolutely shines, once again portraying a Black girl who is into things that some would deem unusual. She believes in spirits, uses a Ouija board, and wants to be in a paranormal activity club. Her sharp humor, quick thinking, and bravery brings out the best in her dad, who happens to hate Halloween. Speaking of him, Marlon Wayans in a family horror comedy is a no-brainer choice. (Plus, hearing him scream “Ah, sh*t!” in a Shorty from Scary Movie voice is golden.) His chemistry with Ferguson sets up believable overbearing dad vs. teen daughter tension that later transforms into triumph. The pair along with Syd’s newfound group of nerdy friends end up on a wild adventure. They are buzzing down skeletons, kicking clowns, and trying to figure out how to stop the curse before midnight.
There’s a ton to enjoy in The Curse of Bridge Hollow in addition to this main relationship. Despite being very underutilized, the new crew of paranormal nerds is pure delight along with the Gordon’s quirky neighbor Sully (Rob Riggle). A good majority of the humor lands really well. And the film does just enough background explanation about Stingy Jack and the mysterious medium. As is the case with most horror stories, the more you try to explain and justify what’s going on, the greater the chance of just ruining the whole thing. Like Sydney tells her skeptical dad, some things are just not logical and that’s okay.
A sprinkle of séance, a scary pumpkinhead, a strange town mayor…all good stuff. And, considering this film is TV-14, the monsters in it are creepy but not too threatening. If you take it for what it’s meant to be—good popcorn family fun—it certainly is entertaining and rewatchable.
However, The Curse of Bridge Hollow is not without a few minor missteps. Much like Meaghan Good’s Jocelyn in Day Shift, poor Kelly Rowland’s Emily gets virtually nothing to do. Yes, a crux of this story was making Howard believe in demons and magic while elevating his relationship with Syd. Rowland gives it her best shot; however, she’s unfortunately written as a shell of a person. Emily is simply the mom whose sole purpose is to make terrible gluten and butter free snacks. Outside of that, she’s very briefly the damsel in distress that Howard must save from eternal damnation in the end. It’s a moment that certainly would have been better if it were Syd being the hero instead. But I know everyone cannot be a main character.
While the film keeps to a sweet 90 minutes, things move a bit too quickly into the Stingy Jack drama. A little more time spent showing the family integrating into Bridge Hollow would have really made it feel like they actually live there. Instead, its almost like they are renting a haunted Airbnb for Halloween weekend. Showing Sydney going to school and starting to get to know her friends while noticing and learning creepy things would have been a great build up to the “scary spirit wants to take over Bridge Hollow” conundrum.
Overall, The Curse of Bridge Hollow is something that we could all use a bit more of: good laughs, fun drama, and Priah Ferguson, our American hero.