Review: “Secrets of Sulphur Springs”

Disney Plus recently added “Secrets of Sulphur Springs,” a new family mystery TV show to its rapidly expanding library of originals. While the first episode of the series is promising, unlike many of the streaming platform’s content, it’s not love at first sight. 

The first episode of “Secrets of Sulphur Springs,” created by Tracey Thomson and directed by Ellen Pressman and Jennifer Phang, follows the Campbell family as they move into and revitalize the Sulphur Springs hotel. However, most people in the town believe the hotel is haunted by Savannah, a young girl who went missing at Sulphur Springs many years earlier. The family’s son, Griffin, along with his new friend, Harper, set out to solve the mystery of the haunted estate.  

From its first moments, it is abundantly clear that this series is not the impressive, high-budget Disney Plus original many viewers know and love. From sets to camera work to writing, the episode is noticeably unrefined. It feels more like a Disney Channel special without the star power or the laugh track.  

However, the actors in this series bring far more to the table than most Disney Channel shows can hope for. Griffin’s school friend, Harper Dunn, played by Kyliegh Curran, is adorably spunky and endearing, and the show’s leading man, Preston Oliver, delivers honest bewilderment with ease. The adults bring refreshingly realistic and grounded performances to their roles as parents, too. Unfortunately, the Campbell family seems to lack chemistry, and many of the scenes still feel a little awkward as the show walks the line between family fun and thrilling storyline.  

The Computer Generated-Imagery (CGI) is glaringly horrible. It distracts the viewer throughout most of the story and makes it remarkably difficult to suspend disbelief. It also seems unnecessary in most scenes when used for establishing shots or dramatic effect. Throughout the episode, it becomes very clear that child actors weren’t sure what they were looking at either, further enhancing the difficulty of staying focused on the story.  

Speaking of story, the plot of “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” is interesting, but there are some clear holes that are challenging for the audience to buy into. A lot of information is thrown at the viewers before they’re even invested enough to pay attention to the details. The tension between the mother and father of the Campbell family becomes a large focus of the episode, implying deeper marital problems. While many viewers can likely relate to this struggle personally, the series’ depiction makes the father appear particularly creepy. Yes, “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” is supposed to be creepy, but it’s an odd move for Disney to draw so much of that creepiness from an off-putting dad.  

Despite its flaws, “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” is an enjoyable addition to Disney Plus. The show is a unique find on the streaming platform, and its shift in tone makes it an intriguing watch. It manages to deliver an exciting level of spookiness that can still be enjoyed by many young children without giving them nightmares. Overall, it’s worth watching past the first episode. However, for older viewers looking for more of a thrill, keep looking someplace else.  

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