The Bridge Curse (2020)
★ / ★★★★
Sigh. A movie like “The Bridge Curse” is not even worth a few keystrokes. It goes to show that mediocrity in the horror genre can be encountered across continents. Although this film is from Taiwan, it possesses the blandness American terror flicks in which the found footage style is employed without any regard on how to use it effectively to tell a specific story. In the end, we are forced to follow a group of cardboard cutouts who run around screaming due to the slightest strange noise from the bushes and falling at the most inopportune times. Are you bored yet?
But this is no slasher flick. It is a ghost story… involving a woman with long black hair wearing a white gown. Her name is not Samara or Sadako. But it might as well be because they look nearly identical. The supposedly scary figure here is so nondescript that she isn’t even given a name. We learn close to nothing about her background. Only rumors about the circumstances of her death. So why should we be scared of her exactly? Writers Keng-Ming Chang and Po-Hsiang Hao fail to provide the antagonist an intriguing mythos. More effort is put into what happens when a person enters a dark room. Cue the expected jump scares.
The basic plot is this: Four years prior, university students died following a “courage test” gone wrong. According to urban legend, the so-called Female Ghost Bridge is such a hotspot for paranormal activity that the thirteen steps located right alongside the lake becomes fourteen at the stroke of midnight. Should a person find himself or herself turning around for whatever reason while on the fourteenth step, he or she would be cursed. The students who died (J.C. Lin, Chang Ning, Vera Yen, Joe Hsieh)—all ruled suicide via drowning… even though most of the corpses were found nowhere near a body of water—committed exactly what they were warned not to do. A news reporter (Summer Meng) decides to investigate further.
And so we follow two timelines: the students who will not make it through the night and the reporter who suspects details might have been overlooked. The problem with the former is that since we already know the fates of the characters, it is critical that their experiences be so pregnant with tension that at times we forget they’re already doomed. But the exact opposite happens. Because they are written to be dumb, there are constant reminders of their fate. Worse, their deaths are so lacking in energy and creativity that each one simply drags.
The reporter angle is no better. We spend so little time with her that we never get a sense of her personality. Sure, she takes it upon herself to look into the strange “suicides.” Other than to get to the truth or further her career, what is it about this case that attracts her, compels her to dive deeper and deeper? There is no specificity. In Hideo Nakata’s “Ringu,” for example, the reporter dives into the case because it is her job but that motivation evolves when the curse finds its way to her son’s life. That is a character worth following because she eventually fights for something bigger than herself. In this film, there is none of the beautiful, tragic, or poetic details.
Expository and redundant, “The Bridge Curse” fails to do anything special that allows it to stand out as a supernatural horror. Its approach is to recycle the same old templates from better films that made their marks, including the clichés, with minimal energy. It is content in showing characters being scared without actually scaring the audience. What is the point of it?