While it doesn’t show much storytelling ambition, the Marlon Wayans Netflix vehicle offers some kid-friendly holiday background noise.
Like countless Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, Netflix’s “The Curse of Bridge Hollow” begins by introducing us to a grown man who devotes too much of his energy to hating an optional holiday. Simply put: Howard Gordon (Marlon Wayans) isn’t a fan of Halloween.
A middle school teacher who spends his life explaining science, he doesn’t see the point in celebrating the supernatural. Understandable, but less than ideal, given that he has just moved his family from Brooklyn to the Halloween-obsessed small town of Bridge Hollow. When the family arrives at their new home, neighbors immediately greet them with questions about their plans to decorate the yard. Howard disappoints everyone by revealing his lack of interest in the holiday, but he soon learns that their house is rumored to be haunted.
His daughter Sydney (Priah Ferguson) isn’t too happy about the move either, but for very different reasons. What New York teenager wants to leave all their friends behind and move to a town nobody has ever heard of? Father-daughter tension abounds in the Gordon household, but Sydney quickly finds a solution to her small town boredom: investigating the paranormal lore that surrounds their allegedly haunted house.
She notices some suspicious occurrences, but with her mother (Kelly Rowland) focused on baking vegan Halloween treats for the local festival, her only option is to turn to her dad. Unsurprisingly, her complaints fall on deaf ears. Howard refuses to believe that anything spooky is taking place in Bridge Hollow, but he reluctantly gives in to his wife’s demands to let Sydney investigate.
(Side note: There’s a lot of “happy wife, happy life” humor in this movie. If you’re still on the fence about whether you fit the film’s target demographic, that scene might serve as a litmus test: Sydney asks her dad if she can go out on Halloween night, and he emphatically denies her request. She then takes out her phone and starts dialing, and he says, “I don’t care who you call. You can call God, and it wouldn’t change my mind!” It’s then revealed that she called her mother, which causes Howard to immediately acquiesce. If that makes your sides hurt with laughter, you’ll likely be a fan. Everyone else should proceed with caution).
Howard and Sydney eventually realize that a curse on the town has caused all of their neighbors’ Halloween decorations to come to life, and their combined efforts are the only thing that can save Bridge Hollow. This leads to a bunch of wacky fight scenes (the special effects won’t impress any cinephiles, but there’s also zero reason that any adult should be watching this movie of their own volition), as well as some wholesome father-daughter bonding. It’s all a very low-effort affair, but the film avoids veering into disaster territory and more or less achieves its extremely modest goals.
“The Curse of Bridge Hollow” makes no attempt to hide the fact that its only selling point is that it takes place during the holiday audiences are currently celebrating. The combination of autumnal B-roll and nonexistent storytelling ambition results in something that’s more of an addition to your living room’s Halloween decorations than a piece of cinema that commands anyone’s attention. Still, if you enjoy looking at Halloween decorations and kids in costumes and want to be able to leave the room for 15 minutes at a time without missing anything important, you could probably do worse. While you could fill several lifetimes watching all of the Halloween movies that are better than “The Curse of Bridge Hollow,” Jeff Wadlow’s film is competent enough to serve as relatively harmless background noise while kids sort candy after a night of trick-or-treating.
“The Curse of Bridge Hollow” is now streaming on Netflix.
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