[Interview] Jeff Wadlow for THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW
In Jeff Wadlow’s latest film, THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW, a teenage girl (Priah Ferguson) who accidentally releases an ancient and mischievous spirit on Halloween which causes decorations to come alive and wreak havoc, must team up with the last person she’d want to in order to save their town – her father (Marlon Wayans).

Leading up to the release of the film, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew chatted with Director Jeff Wadlow. During their chat, they discussed everything from the world creation of THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW to working with the Jim Henson Company to build creatures, and more!

Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Jeff. I had a blast with THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW. That said, what were you most excited to see translated from script to screen? 

Jeff Wadlow: Honestly, it was the world creation. On the page when you read clowns or a bat or zombies, those can mean so many different things, right? Like we all have so many different images that come to mind when you think of Halloween, clowns, bats, zombies, this entire menagerie of creatures. So, the opportunity to work with all these different creature houses and design them was really exciting to me because we embraced an approach where we didn’t hire just one [design] house. A lot of these movies, you hire one creature design house and they do your monster or your handful of monsters, but we had so many in this movie. After I started interviewing a bunch of them, I realized they all had good ideas and it was too much work for one house. So we actually ended up hiring four different houses to work on this.

At the crux of this film is a father/daughter relationship between Marlon Wayans and Priah Ferguson’s characters. What type of direction did you give them to help form that relationship on-screen? 

Jeff Wadlow: In prep, what was most exciting for me was the monsters, but in production, it was the emotional story. I knew that was my number one job every day was to make sure that the emotional story was being told and that it was alive and present in every scene. And to do that I worked with Marlon and Priah and constantly reminded them about where they were in the story, how they were supposed to be feeling about each other, and how we were slowly arcing that dynamic out over the course of the film, and just tried to keep them aware of these little moves we were trying to make in each scene.

Frank Masi/Netflix © 2022.

You mentioned that you used four different design houses to come up with the creature designs. How much input did you have in the design process and how much of the creatures were practical versus CGI?

Jeff Wadlow: When I said I work with creature houses, these are practical effects houses. They don’t do the VFX. The VFX is discussed and we make plans for augmenting the creatures with VFX. I’m trying to think to make sure I’m correct in the statement, but I don’t think there was a single creature in the movie that was 100% VFX. We built that giant spider – the Hanson shop built it and I have an amazing video of them making it walk and do all these things. Part of this process too is I was involved in every design not just the aesthetics, but also how they were gonna function, how we were gonna film them, cause I wanted the movie to have this Amblin tone.

What was great about those movies growing up was they were very practical and I think a lot of films today rely too much on CG. But you can’t go completely away from CG cause we’ve seen those movies recently where they’re like, all our monsters are practical, and they feel kind of goofy and they feel sort of dated. I wanted to strike this balance and some of that was trial and error.

And with the spider, for example, I knew every wide shot of the spider would be VFX. You can’t move a puppet that quickly. And then it became this sort of questionable, where’s the tipping point? So we built the whole spider and I planned some medium shots where we would use the whole spider. Ultimately, we only really used the actual spider puppet for some tighter spots. Every creature has a practical element to it. Even the little spiders, we made all those out of rubber working with the Jim Henson company. And some of them had very basic movements and a lot of them were CG, so it was always a hybrid.

The film features a lot of well-known comedians such as Rob Riggle, Lauren Lapkus, John Michael Higgins, etc. When it came to casting, did you have these people in mind for specific roles?

Jeff Wadlow: It was a collaboration. Marlon produced the movie along with Rick Alvarez and Nathan Reimann, and I was an executive producer, so we were sort of the brain trust when it came to casting the film and we just pulled on a lot of our relationships. I had worked with Rob Riggle before (2016’s True Memoirs of an International Assassin). Marlon had never worked with Rob but had always wanted to. Lauren has had great success with Netflix recently with The Wrong Missy, so they put her forward and I thought that was a great idea. I was super excited about working with her. John Michael Higgins… he’s a comedy icon. He’s the most famous actor who nobody knows his name, he owns that claim to fame [Laughs]. So we really just pulled upon our own relationships and worked with the studio and just kind of came up with a dream team and we got it.

THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW has so many fantastic scenes that really capture the spirit of Halloween. For you, what was your favorite scene and/or the hardest scene to execute?

Jeff Wadlow: There wasn’t an easy scene in the movie, it was quite challenging because there are so many monsters in there and that’s very technical work. But then you also had to maintain the fluidity and spontaneity that you have to have on set to get great comedic performances. Marlon was a fantastic partner. He understood when I needed each thing from him. He got it when he knew it was a comedic scene and we needed that energy. He brought it and he also understood that when I was, for example, trying to make the spider sequence work, it was going to be very technical and very slow. And he understood as well. Honestly, all the scenes presented their own challenges.

My favorite scene? The skeleton fight. You always have these sequences on every movie where your crew and your collaborators are like, is this gonna work? And not only did it work, everything fell into place. Everyone brought their A-game. It was a really exciting sequence. And the topper on it was we were in post and I was cutting it and I said, you know what? Let’s just for fun try [the song] “Highway to Hell” on this sequence. And sometimes as a filmmaker, there’s certain rhythms that you’re feeling that you’re not even aware of, and you drop a piece of music on it and it played like we had been listening to the track while we were shooting sequences. I mean, it was so perfect. The sounds, the chainsaw, the guitar riffs, and the way it comes in when Marlon pulls the cord on the chainsaw for the first time. I got goosebumps from the first moment we did that.

And as budgets got tighter as they always do, there’s lots of conversations about where we could save money and I said, we cannot replace “Highway to Hell” even though it’s a very expensive song. Netflix and my producing partners were always in agreement. So that one’s probably my favorite scene.

THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW is now streaming on Netflix. For more on the film, check out our review.

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