Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

Priah Ferguson can only do so much here as 14-year-old Sydney, who’s moved from Brooklyn to historic Bridge Hollow with her parents (Marlon Wayans and Kelly Rowland) just as October 31 is approaching on the calendar. Ferguson has been a no-nonsense scene-stealer over the past couple seasons of “Stranger Things” as Lucas’ little sister, Erica. Here, her undaunted delivery is similar as she tries to convince her father that strange things are indeed afoot, a notion he rejects because he’s a high school science teacher who only believes in science. Wayans says the word “science” so many times, it could be a drinking game, except you’d be passed out by the end of the first act. Then again, that might not be such a bad thing.

The film from director Jeff Wadlow (“Truth or Dare,” “Fantasy Island”), from a script by Todd Berger and Robert Rugan, doesn’t offer much of a coherent, engaging story; rather, it consists of a series of exposition dumps alternating with shrieky set pieces. Characters stand around explaining things to each other, such as: why the family moved here in the middle of the school year, and who exactly is Stingy Jack, the inspiration for the annual Halloween festival. Lapkus, doing a ridiculously thick New England accent as the town’s mayor (or rather, mayah), even has the legend of Stingy Jack stitched onto her sweater (or sweatah).

This is the kind of place where everyone goes all out on their Halloween decorations, Riggle explains to Wayans’ character as the family’s annoyingly friendly next-door neighbor. (He’s wearing a Tom Brady jersey when we first meet him, in case you had any lingering doubts as to where the movie takes place.) Sydney’s quirky new high school friends further fill in the town’s history while they’re all standing around awkwardly at a cemetery. Rowland, meanwhile, gets exactly one topic to stand around and talk about: her love of making vegan, gluten-free baked goods, a running bit that’s never funny and doesn’t even have a satisfying payoff.

By Dave Jenks

Dave Jenks is an American novelist and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and over the road truck driver, among many other things. He now lives on a sea island, in the South Carolina Lowcountry, with his wife and youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grand children, three dogs and a whole flock of parakeets. Stinnett grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico. His next dream is to one day visit and dive Cuba.