[Screen It]


(2022) (Priah Ferguson, Marlon Wayans) (TV-14)

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Comedy/Horror: After accidentally unleashing an evil spirit that causes her town's Halloween decorations to come to life, a teenager must convince her science-minded father to believe what's happening and help her figure out how to stop it.

14-year-old Sydney Gordon (PRIAH FERGUSON) and her parents -- science teacher Howard (MARLON WAYANS) and lawyer turned aspiring vegan baker Emily (KELLY ROWLAND) -- have just moved from their Brooklyn apartment to the small town of Bridge Hollow.

Sydney isn't thrilled about the move, but does enjoy seeing all the elaborate Halloween decorations including in the front yard of their new neighbor, Sully (ROB RIGGLE), and meeting a trio of kid paranormal investigators, Ramona (ABI MONTEREY), Jamie (HOLLY J. BARRETT), and Mario (MYLES VINCENT PEREZ).

They inform her that her family's new old house is haunted by Madam Hawthorne who long ago thwarted and trapped the spirit of Stingy Jack, a spook who returned every Halloween with revenge on his mind and the goal of finding another soul to replace him so that he can stick around forever.

Of course, science-minded Howard doesn't believe any of that, but when Sydney finds an old jack-o-lantern and it ends up lit, it releases Stingy Jack's curse that soon turns all the town's Halloween decorations into living monsters that come after the townsfolk. All of which means it's up to the daughter-father duo to save the day before it's too late.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

When I was quite young, I had plastic, glue-together models based on comic book and old horror movie characters, but one that I didn't possess was the Phantom of the Opera one. It featured the character standing with his mask in hand above another man peering through bars on which his hands were grasped. Now, I don't know if this was a dream, but I remember a much older neighbor boy having that model.

I also distinctly recall (and this part was certainly a dream, maybe a hypnotic hallucination, or...was it real?) that man behind the bars moving about and trying to escape, as if alive. It definitely freaked me out to the point that I can vividly see that in my mind to this day, nearly half a century later.

This week's release of "The Curse of Bridge Hollow" brought back that memory that hadn't crossed my mind for some time, and that's because this Halloween-based comedy/horror hybrid features other inanimate objects that come to life. And at one point, the science teacher dad in it (played by Marlon Wayans) even tries to explain that away by offering a leaked gas-induced mass hallucination theory to explain how little plastic or rubber spiders have suddenly spun to life.

But they're not alone in this Netflix offering that begins with Howard (Wayans) moving to the titular town with his wife, Emily (Kelly Rowland), who dreams of opening a vegan bakery despite apparently not being any good at such cooking (a running gag that wears out its welcome quite quickly), and their 14-year-old daughter, Sydney (Priah Ferguson), who's less than pleased that they've moved from their Brooklyn apartment to an old but nice house in the safest small town around.

That is, until she sees all of the elaborate Halloween decorations -- something her dad disdains -- and then learns from a trio of young paranormal investigators (who surprisingly are underused here, especially considering the supernatural-based story) that her new abode is reportedly haunted by the spirit of a woman who helped rid the town of one Stingy Jack, a former resident long, long ago who was hanged and then returned every Halloween with revenge on his mind (and like all things Cinderella-related, only had until midnight to find another soul to take his place in eternal damnation) until he was trapped.

Or so the legend goes, and that's definitely something science-minded Howard dismisses and scoffs at. At least until Sydney accidentally unleashes Jack and his spirit infects the town's various Halloween character decorations...and there are plenty of those life-sized figures to spare. Natch, it's then up to Sydney and her dad to save the day before it's too late.

As directed by Jeff Wadlow from a script by Todd Berger and Robert Rugan, the flick puts my singular Phantom of the Opera memory in its place, as there are -- in addition to those arachnids -- zombies, skeletal figures, and a bunch of weapon-wielding clowns that will leave any young viewers with some rather vivid nightmare material of their own.

For everyone else, this is mostly played for Halloween-based adventure and laughs, with Wayans doing his typical over-reactive schtick that, much like those inedible vegan muffins, ends up less tasty with each subsequent appearance (with Rob Riggle similarly over-acting for intended zaniness). I guess all of that's present to temper what's otherwise some creepy bits, as if to demonstrate to kids that everything is going to be okay. And there's obviously nothing wrong with that from a family-friendly perspective.

But as I recently said in my review for "Hocus Pocus 2" there's also nothing wrong with delivering effective scares to the same audience, as evidenced by the aftermath of me seeing that man in the dungeon below the Phantom moving about despite being made of plastic. Much of the humor here appears made of the same material, but there's still enough entertainment value present that "The Curse of Bridge Hollow" rates as a 5 out of 10 for younger viewers.

Posted October 14, 2022

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