Directed by Jeff Wadlow, written by Todd Berger and Robert Rugan, and based on a story by John R. Morey and Todd Berger, “The Curse of Bridge Hollow” follows Howard Gordon (Marlon Wayans), his wife Emily (Kelly Rowland), and their daughter Sydney (Priah Ferguson) as they move from Brooklyn into a town called Bridge Hollow. And since they are moving in on Halloween, the town is decked to the teeth with all kinds of horror-themed decorations and paraphernalia. Now, Howard hates Halloween, Sydney is angry about leaving Brooklyn, and it seems that Emily is the only one who is somewhat positive about the shift. There’s some bad blood between Howard and Sydney as well, as she doesn’t want to become the person her father wants her to be. But when the spirit of Stingy Jack descends upon the town to haunt it, they are forced to work through their differences and defeat this personification of evil.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What’s Up With All The Signs For Stingy Jack?
When Mayor Tammy (Lauren Lapkus) runs into the Gordons, Emily asks her about the town’s obsession with Stingy Jack. So, she explains – with some visual aid provided by her intricately designed sweater – that, according to an Irish legend, an evil person called Stingy Jack was hanged till death by the residents of Bridge Hollow. But the Devil felt sorry for Jack and gave him a pumpkin lantern in which the flames were made of the fires of hell. And every Halloween, Jack returns to Bridge Hollow to seek his revenge on the descendants of the villagers who wronged him. Why should that concern the Gordons? Well, while visiting the Bridge Hollow cemetery, Sydney comes across three kids: Mario (Myles Vincent Perez) Ramona (Abi Monterey), and Jamie (Holly J. Barrett). They say that the Gordons have moved into the house of Madam Hawthorne, i.e., the spiritualist who vanquished Stingy Jack.
This piece of information obviously piques Sydney’s interest, and, assuming that the spirit of Madam Hawthorne lives in her house, she uses the Ouija board app to contact her. Some unknown entity leads her to a trunk with a lantern in it that’s shaped like a pumpkin head. While having a tiff with her dad over leaving the science team, Sydney lights the lantern, thereby awakening the spirit of Stingy Jack and allowing his magic to spread to all the inanimate Halloween decorations and bring them to life. Sydney obviously wants to follow what all this spooky activity is building up to, while Howard is inclined to rubbish it as practical magic tricks being conjured by the people of the town. In doing so, the main conflict of “The Curse of Bridge Hollow” is established: a believer versus a non-believer in the supernatural. And the conflict that runs parallel to it is Sydney wanting to be her own person while Howard wants her to become the person he couldn’t.
Madam Hawthorne’s Spell Is The Only Thing That Can Stop Stingy Jack.
To learn more about Hawthorne and the curse on Bridge Hollow, Sydney and Howard head to the Shady Appletree Retirement Home, which is where Madam Hawthorne’s granddaughter, Victoria (Helen Slayton-Hughes), resides. And the first thing that Victoria says is that that lantern isn’t a pumpkin but a turnip. When Sydney asks her to tell them more about it, she says that a long time ago, on a dark and stormy night, mystics from all around the world came to that house to meet Josephine Hawthorne. They used her grimoire (a book of spells) to conjure the spirit of Stingy Jack and put an end to his yearly, violent visits to Bridge Hollow. However, Jack had other plans. He wanted every night to be Halloween, and he could achieve that by replacing his soul in the “ever after” with someone else’s. Jack apparently wanted Jospehine’s soul for that. But since she trapped him in his lantern, his plan failed. Now he has a second chance to plunge Bridge Hollow into eternal Halloween because his lantern has been lit again.
So, in order to beat Stingy Jack again, Sydney and Howard proceed to find Hawthorne’s grimoire, utter the spell, and trap Jack’s spirit back in his lantern. They are forced to take a very convoluted but action-packed route – filled with some brilliant use of SFX, VFX, and stunt work – to Principal Floyd (John Michael Higgins), who is the current owner of the grimoire and lives on Elm Street. Yes, “The Curse of Bridge Hollow” has nods to “The Walking Dead,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Killer Clowns From Space,” “Army of Darkness,” “Enter the Dragon” and more. But it’s done very competently, and the movie doesn’t dwell on it for too long. If you can catch the reference, good for you. If you can’t, the movie keeps moving on. Coming back to the narrative, Howard and the kids do find Hawthorne’s grimoire in Floyd’s house. But when they are attacked by the football-themed skeletons outside, the page of the book with the spell in it gets burned, thereby forcing them to go to Hawthorne’s grave to awaken her spirit and request her to repeat the spell for them.
‘The Curse of Bridge Hollow’ Ending Explained: How Do Howard And Sydney Beat Stingy Jack?
While Howard and the kids extract the spell from Hawthorne, the animated Halloween decorations head to the town fair to breathe life into the statue of Stingy Jack. Howard and Sydney figure out that Jack is now going to reunite with his lantern and then send a soul to the afterlife so that he can begin his reign over Bridge Hollow. Since the lantern is at the Gordon/Hawthorne household, where Emily is all by herself and unaware of anything that’s going on, Howard and Sydney realize that she’s going to become Jack’s victim. So, they take the Mayor’s jack-o-lantern-themed car (since she and the rest of the residents are busy fighting the animated decorations) and rush to Emily’s rescue. And just when Jack is about to throw Emily into the void, Howard utters the spell with all the conviction he can muster and puts an end to this spooky nightmare. The film concludes with Howard and Sydney locking up Jack’s lantern for good, only to find the attic jam-packed with several other trunks that are probably full of Hawthorne’s secrets.
Howard and Sydney’s battle against Stingy Jack can simply be seen as a fight between good and evil and how goodness will always vanquish evil at the end of the day. But it’s also about outsiders coming into a town with ancient customs and instantly breaking them because they are unaware of that action’s repercussions. While a horror movie like “Midsommar” brutally punishes its protagonists for doing the exact same thing, “The Curse of Bridge Hollow” lets its protagonists right their wrongs because it wants to give people a kid-friendly experience. If this was a serious movie about a Black family inheriting the secrets of a White spiritualist (who has an estranged granddaughter), it would’ve had a lot of historical connotations about race and generational trauma. Maybe it is in this film’s DNA. However, since it’s pretty light on its subject matter, that interpretation can be limited to a family being swindled into buying a house that’s cheap because of its haunted history. And last but not least, it’s about a staunch supporter of facts and science being forced to question his reality by the supernatural.
I don’t think “The Curse of Bridge Hollow” does a brilliant job of dealing with the themes that are very obviously there in its script. Jack’s choice of victim seems very weird since Emily had little to nothing to do with the lantern. Sydney would’ve been the more obvious choice because she’s the one who lit it. Also, Emily’s career shift from a lawyer to a vegan baker doesn’t sit right with me. It feels like there’s a commentary about the town’s farness from modern civilization leading to their rise in supernatural beliefs and petty feuds with the neighboring town, which inadvertently fuels the supernatural. But all that is mentioned or observed in passing. And, of course, Howard’s conversion from a non-believer to a believer looks way too “simple” because the narrative is rigged to outweigh the facts with fiction. But, despite all these issues, the film is very enjoyable. It boasts some of the most amazing special effects, visual effects, stunt work, action direction, and acting I’ve seen in a horror-comedy in a long time. Marlon Wayans and Priah Ferguson are clearly having a blast. For me, that’s reason enough to give this Netflix film a watch.
“The Curse of Bridge Hollow” is a 2022 Drama Comedy film directed by Jeff Wadlow.