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The Ending Of The Curse Of Bridge Hollow Explained

If you've ever felt the hair on the back of your neck stand up when walking by a particularly spooky Halloween decoration, wondering if perhaps it was not just a decoration, then the new Netflix family flick "The Curse of Bridge Hollow" is for you. The Gordon family have recently relocated from Brooklyn to Bridge Hollow, a quaint little New England town that celebrates Halloween in a major way. Howard Gordon (Marlon Wayans) is a science teacher without much of a taste for pranks or spooky holiday fun, but when moody teen daughter Sydney (Priah Ferguson) accidentally lets loose an ancient spirit who can bring Halloween decorations to life, the two must put aside their differences and find a way to save the town.

Directed by Jeff Wadlow ("Kick-Ass 2," the 2021 reboot of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"), the film is a throwback to 1980s creature features like "Gremlins" and "Beetlejuice," the kind that endeared themselves to kids by being just slightly more scary and grown-up than their parents might have liked. A tiny bit of swearing earns its TV-14 rating, and anyone with a strong aversion to clowns might want to schedule a bathroom break around the 48-minute mark, but overall the film is a dependable kid-pleaser about a resourceful teen and her clueless dad fighting evil forces. Lessons are learned by both child and parent, and the dark night turns to peaceful morning, though new dangers may soon emerge. Let's take a look at the ending of "The Curse of Bridge Hollow."

Stingy Jack

The film's villain is a spectral menace by the name of Stingy Jack, a local legend celebrated by the townsfolk of Bridge Hollow at the Halloween carnival each year. Mayor Tammy (Lauren Lapkus, sporting a broad Boston accent) loves the story of Stingy Jack so much that she not only drives around in a pickup truck decorated like a giant pumpkin, but wears a sweater that tells his story in its design. The legend goes that Stingy Jack was so hated by the townspeople that they hanged him in the town square. But Jack had at least one friend: The Devil himself, who would allow Jack to return to life one night a year to wreak havoc upon the living. But what Mayor Tammy and the rest of Bridge Hollow don't realize is that Stingy Jack is all too real, trapped inside a locked box in the attic of the Gordons' new house, just waiting for someone to free him.

As the film correctly notes, the real legend of Stingy Jack partly inspired the tradition of Halloween jack-o-lanterns, first in the legend's native Ireland and then in the United States (via National Geographic). One difference, though, is that the film's version has been heavily altered in order to make Jack a clear villain. In the original folktale, Jack is a trickster who fools the Devil but is barred from Heaven due to his general unsavoriness, cursed to wander the Earth for eternity. The film's Stingy Jack is a more malevolent force, though the choice to give him such a violent backstory feels odd, especially when Mayor Tammy welcomes what appears to be Bridge Hollow's only Black family while wearing a sweater depicting a lynch mob.

A familiar cast

Guiding us through the scary world of Bridge Hollow are some familiar faces with long-established bona fides in horror, comedy, and comedy-horror. Marlon Wayans is, of course, a member of the multi-generational Wayans comedy dynasty, and even sneaks in one of his brother Damon's famous catchphrases when facing off against the killer clowns. In the early 2000s he appeared in the first two entries of the "Scary Movie" franchise, directed by his brother Kenan Ivory Wayans, and more recently starred in the "Paranormal Activity" parody "A Haunted House" and its sequel. Kelly Rowland, as Howard's aspiring baker wife Emily, will forever be best known for her music career (especially as a member of Destiny's Child), but she's built up a respectable career as an actor. One of her first feature film roles was in the 2003 mash-up "Freddy vs. Jason," in which she famously (or infamously) called Freddy Krueger a homophobic slur.

But the draw of the film is Priah Ferguson as Sydney. Tough and resourceful, Sydney is a variation on Ferguson's scene-stealing turn as Lucas' little sister Erica on "Stranger Things," another Netflix production. While that show has her reluctantly fighting off mind flayers and Vecnas and such with her brother's nerdy friends, here Ferguson leads the way, a would-be paranormal investigator whose belief in the supernatural is met with condescension from her scientist father.

And familiar creatures

As Stingy Jack runs amok in Bridge Hollow, he marshals his supernatural forces by bringing the town's Halloween decorations to life, starting with the rubber bat that Sydney brought home as a small bit of rebellion against her Halloween-averse father. Part of the fun of the film is its use of recognizable decorations, from animatronic witches who take flight to the 12-foot skeleton that has taken the internet by storm in the last few years (per CNN). The front yard zombies of the Gordons' neighbor Sully (Rob Riggle) are specifically called out as being from "The Walking Dead;" Sully is even wearing a Rick Grimes costume when the decorations inevitably come to life and attack. Later, when Howard and Emily find themselves in the high school's clown-infested haunted house, the film's creature design recalls the titular monsters from the 1988s cult classic "Killer Klowns from Outer Space."

Beyond the familiarity of individual decorations, though, the film's plot bears a strong resemblance to some other recent family-friendly horror films. The 2018 sequel to 2015's "Goosebumps," alternately titled "Slappy's Revenge" or "Haunted Halloween," also features Halloween decorations coming to life and wreaking havoc. And October 2022 also saw the release of "Spirit Halloween: The Movie," a small-budget indie made in conjunction with the ubiquitous costume store, where its scary decorations and animatronic monsters come to life at night.

Science vs. Magic

Howard and Sydney don't always get along; it's established early in the film that he has often forced her into the activities that he wants her to do rather than what she's genuinely interested in, like taking karate lessons instead of ballet, or joining her school's science club. Howard's insistence on the primacy of science and that everything must have a rational explanation gets a thorough workout on this Halloween night, as he and Sydney encounter one unexplainable phenomenon after another. His belief in science, contrasted with her belief in magic, is in many ways the main conflict in the film, aside from all the monsters and the threat of Stingy Jack taking over the entire town.

Howard explains the origins of his love of science late in the film, in a monologue about a traumatic childhood event when he saw a group of skeletons come to life after falling into the basement of an old abandoned house. When he later learned that head injuries can cause hallucinations, it comforted him that there was a rational explanation for what he thought he saw — as he says to Sydney, "Eureka, not abracadabra." But at a certain point clinging to rationality becomes irrational, especially in the face of living giant plastic spiders. Howard finally embraces his new ghostly reality and faces his childhood fears when he takes a chainsaw to a team of skeletal football players that have broken loose from the yard of his (possibly) devil-worshiping principal (John Michael Higgins). The big hero moment is scored to AC/DC's timeless hit "Highway to Hell," one of several well-known (and probably expensive) needle drops in the film.

Madam Hawthorne

Stingy Jack's master plan is basically the same as any other kid's on Halloween: To stay out late. He is only able to roam the Earth from sundown to midnight on October 31st ("Is that midnight Eastern Standard Time?" Howard quips), but if he can find another soul to take his place in the afterlife, then he can live forever and make every night Halloween. This information dump is provided by nursing home patient Victoria (Helen Slayton-Hughes, "Parks and Recreation"), whose grandmother was Madam Hawthorne, the 1920s spiritualist who formerly owned the Gordons' house, played in a two-scene cameo by "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" star Nia Vardalos.

Madam Hawthorne may be a fictional character, but she's based on a very real phenomenon. The occult and spiritualist fad that went mainstream in the 1920s and '30s saw famous figures like Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle popularize mediums, seances, and items like the Ouija board. Meanwhile, skeptics like Harry Houdini worked to debunk their claims of being able to contact the afterlife (via History). The film's depiction of Madam Hawthorne fits right into this era, with Vardalos decked out in a stylish headpiece and rocking an old-timey movie star accent. That accent takes center stage in her second scene, in which Howard speaks with her voice when Sydney and her gang of fellow ghost hunters conduct a séance at Madam Hawthorne's crypt, looking for the spell that will trap Stingy Jack forever.


Meanwhile, Stingy Jack's army of decorations has descended on the town square, where the annual carnival and pumpkin contest is in full swing. When the power goes out and Mayor Tammy sees the red-eyed horde of spooky clowns and cackling witches surrounding the townsfolk, she comes to the only logical conclusion: That this is an elaborate prank pulled by Bridge Hollow's rival community, Oaktown. She gives a rousing speech and tells the Oaktownies to get out, her bravery bolstered by the fact that she doesn't realize the danger she is in. Even after Howard and Sydney defeat Stingy Jack in the film's climax, leaving the army of decorations inanimate once again, Tammy is still convinced that this was all Oaktown's doing.

Bridge Hollow's rivalry with Oaktown is set up at the start of the film, when Mayor Tammy brags to the Gordons about how safe their town is compared to the neighboring burgs, and follows a rich comedy tradition of small town rivalries that play out in the form of sports games, bragging rights, and pranks. Just like Springfield and Shelbyville on "The Simpsons" or Pawnee and Eagleton on "Parks and Recreation," Bridge Hollow and Oaktown have likely been sniping at each other for generations, and if the film spawns a sequel, a visit to the heretofore unseen Oaktown could be in order.

Believe in the Words

Armed with the curse that can imprison Stingy Jack forever, Sydney and Howard race to the town square, only to find that the spirit, now walking around in a giant wooden body with a jack-o-lantern head, has gone back to the old Hawthorne house — their house. He's seeking the soul to exchange in order to stay on Earth forever: Emily, who is resting with a glass of wine after selling her gluten-free baked goods at the carnival. As Stingy Jack (whose flaming pumpkin head is a surprisingly intense effect) chases her around the house, Howard and Sydney arrive to save the day, but Howard's recitation of the curse isn't working. He has to truly believe in the words, Sydney implores.

Howard's journey from skepticism to belief is the main engine that drives the plot forward. As much as Sydney is intended to be the main character, she doesn't change very much through the course of the film. It's Howard who has to rescue his wife and reconcile with his daughter by letting go of his rigid insistence on science and embracing the unknown. He speaks the words of the curse in English instead of its original Latin, closing the portal to the other side, trapping Stingy Jack back in his withered old gourd, and getting drenched in goo when Jack's giant pumpkin head bursts on the ground.

Vegan Baker No More

Despite being Stingy Jack's climactic target and the third member of the Gordon family, Emily doesn't have very much to do in the plot of "The Curse of Bridge Hollow." A former high-powered attorney who apparently quit her lucrative job in New York City so that Howard could take a public school teaching job in the sticks, she cautions Howard to be more understanding of Sydney and her interests. For most of the film, though, she's there to foist her uniformly terrible baked goods on everyone she meets. It's a bit of a mean-spirited joke; Emily boasts of how much the other Brooklyn moms loved her treats made without gluten, butter, or sugar, but Howard and Sydney clearly hate them, and no one in town is able to stomach them, either. Mayor Tammy even spits a bite out in front of her.

As morning dawns on November 1 and the town is safe at last from Stingy Jack, Emily makes a batch of pancakes and cinnamon buns for her hungry ghost hunters: Howard, Sydney, and Sydney's three spooky friends (Abi Monterey, Holly J. Barrett, and Myles Perez). Everyone agrees that it's a delicious breakfast, better than they've ever had. So what's the secret to her scrumptious cinnamon buns? Why, gluten, sugar, and butter, of course. Like Howard, Emily has let go of her dogma and become happier for it; after a night of terrors and near-destruction, she has learned the value of being flexible in her beliefs.

More Curses to come?

Munching on cinnamon buns, Howard expresses relief that Halloween is over, only to be warned by Sydney's friends that Halloween is nothing compared to "what this town does for Christmas." Then, as Howard and Sydney have a warm father-daughter moment of forgiveness and understanding together in the final scene, a seemingly random accident knocks a hole in the wall, revealing a crawlspace filled with ancient containers just like the one that once held Stingy Jack. Could there be more spooky adventures for the Gordons in Bridge Hollow?

If Netflix does greenlight any sequels, the end of "The Curse of Bridge Hollow" gives future films several possible avenues to take. Over the years Netflix has produced a great many holiday films, and a return trip to Bridge Hollow filled with snow and ghosts would make a bright addition to their slate in 2023 or beyond. Beyond that, the attic full of locked boxes containing spirits presumably just as ghastly as Stingy Jack (if not more so) could power an entire franchise for years to come. A prequel featuring Vardalos as Madam Hawthorne could also prove fruitful, as could a visit to rival Oaktown. Stingy Jack could even turn up again for another battle. As Howard and his family have learned the hard way, in Bridge Hollow anything is possible.