‘The Curse of Bridge Hollow’ Review: Marlon Wayans and Priah Ferguson Can’t Save Derivative Family Horror Comedy
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‘The Curse of Bridge Hollow’ Review: Marlon Wayans and Priah Ferguson Can’t Save Derivative Family Horror Comedy

The best way to describe this horror comedy is if ‘Stranger Things’ had all the kids riding bikes have training wheels.

A film that provides some light horror comedy fun though is cursed by its own conventions, The Curse of Bridge Hollow gets far too lost in meandering narrative mechanics and never takes flight. The Curse of Bridge Hollow approaches being an outright parody at moments, calling out many of the tropes of the horror genre, only to then replicate each of them under the guise of poking fun. Despite its best efforts, it won’t become a Halloween cinematic classic anytime soon.

The story follows Howard (Marlon Wayans), who is moving with his family from Brooklyn to the small and seemingly safe town of Bridge Hollow for a change of scenery, despite his daughter Sydney (Priah Ferguson) remaining strongly opposed to the move. This isn’t the only thing that the two don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on. Howard is less than a fan of Halloween as a concept and the many elaborate holiday decorations that his new neighbors have seemingly all put up. Wayans plays the character as being dorkier and out of touch with the hip young kids as crystallized in one scene where he can’t figure out what their costumes are.

Howard also wants his daughter to take part in the science team, whereas Sydney just wants to do her own thing. When the two of them uncover a mysterious force that threatens to consume the town, they’ll have to team up to piece together how they can stop it. Along the way, they will encounter various decorations come to life, from giant spiders to scary clowns that look like they are CGI recreations ripped off of the still classic horror comedy Killer Klowns From Outer Space. There is a line that Sydney even shouts where she identifies them as being “killer clowns,” just to make this even blunter despite it already being abundantly so.

Such a reference is clearly meant to appeal to a broader horror crowd, but it is hard to imagine them being all that taken with The Curse of Bridge Hollow, save for maybe having a light chuckle at a couple of moments. The first priority still remains to tell a story for a much younger audience by attempting to be more charming and cute as opposed to actually a scary horror film. Of course, there is no world where a work like this would actually try to be truly frightening so as not to alienate these younger viewers that are the clear demographic.

The strange part then becomes that many of the references will most certainly go over the heads of these kids and only make the adults watching wish they were instead watching the original horror films it’s drawing from. When the characters make their way down Elm St. or have a largely throwaway exchange about how The Walking Dead has jumped the shark as a show, there is only the slightest glimmer of recognition that never feels as fun as it should be. None of these moments end up having much of anything truly funny to say about what they’re referencing save for a string of more self-aware jokes dutifully dispensed by a wacky Wayans.

This all operates in the confines of a serviceable yet superficial storyline where the father-daughter duo has to investigate their way through town to figure out how to stop the haunting. There are moments that recall another referential Netflix property, Stranger Things, that are sprinkled throughout this journey. Unfortunately, it opts to just have the basics without any of the deeper darkness and earned humor of that show. Some of this inevitably traces back to it sharing fan favorite Ferguson who, while she now gets to have a story that is all her own, plays a character that lacks the same snarky sensibility. The young actress does give it her all and, as a result, you can see parts of that same spark starting to illuminate the otherwise drab direction the rest of the film takes us on. The closest reference point would be to a film like the first Goosebumps, though just never as fun as that somehow managed to be.

The cast is committed, even though don’t have enough material to work with. This is largely unsurprising, in that the film’s co-writer Todd Berger last worked on The Happytime Murders and this ends up running into many of the same structural problems despite being much tamer in its tone. Making matters worse is how The Curse of Bridge Hollow shifts into being overly sentimental without really earning it. While comedies can certainly have their emotional aspirations, the way it plays out here feels like it is just going through the motions without any heart in it as both father and daughter are more like stock characters rather than fully developed ones. There is also a supporting cast of comedic talent that is similarly wasted on one-note jokes and scenarios that largely go nowhere until we eventually arrive at the end.

This chaotic conclusion ups the stakes sufficiently enough to get you to sit up just a bit though in a manner that increasingly feels like a mishmash of all that preceded it. The curse of Bridge Hollow remains a film that would be relatively harmless if it wasn’t so utterly uninventive. There is a high chance that it will hold the attention of younger viewers long enough to keep them entertained for one viewing, but any more than that would be pushing it. There can be creative works that dip their toe into horror while still working for kids though this is not a film that will be remembered as one. The fact that it tries to set up for a sequel of some kind, albeit with an admittedly funny closing line, is certainly a bold prediction though stranger things have happened in the world of streaming as there are plenty of follow-ups to otherwise lackluster initial outings. A film like this could certainly catch on for those looking for some counterprogramming to the more gore-centered experience of recent horror like Hellraiser or Smile. The problem is The Curse of Bridge Hollow isn’t clever enough to carve out a niche of its own and is defined by the diminishing returns of derivative genre riffs from start to finish.

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