Priah Ferguson can’t do much here as 14-year-old Sydney, who moved from Brooklyn to historic Bridge Hollow with her parents (Marlon Wayans and Kelly Rowland) just as October 31 approaches on the calendar . Ferguson was a no-nonsense scene-stealer in the final two seasons of “Stranger Things” as Lucas’ little sister, Erica. Here, her fearless childbirth is similar as she tries to convince her father that strange things are indeed afoot, a notion he rejects because he is 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, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Director Jeff Wadlow’s film (“Truth or Dare,” “Fantasy Island”), from a screenplay by Todd Berger and Robert Rugan, doesn’t offer much of a cohesive and engaging story; rather, it consists of a series of expository dumps alternating with garish settings. The characters stand to explain 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 his sweater (or sweatah).
It’s the kind of place where everyone goes all out for their Halloween decorations, Riggle explains to Wayans’ character as the family’s annoying, friendly neighbor. (He’s wearing a Tom Brady jersey when we first meet him, in case you have any lingering doubts about where the movie is set.) a cemetery. Rowland, meanwhile, has exactly one subject to stand and talk about: her love for making vegan and gluten-free baked goods, a common morsel that’s never funny and doesn’t even have a satisfying payoff.