Isn’t there already a Haunted Mansion movie starring Eddie Murphy that came out 20 years ago? Yes, there is. Why the remake, you ask? Exactly – although this film from director Justin Simien is not quite a remake, but a second attempt at making the famous Disneyland ride into a successful on-screen adventure.
In this interpretation, single mother Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase Dillon) relocate to their new home just outside New Orleans, only to discover that it is haunted. To confront the supernatural entities, they enlist the assistance of an ex-paranormal investigator Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), who now works as a tour guide, an eccentric priest (Owen Wilson), a psychic (Tiffany Haddish) and an academic professor (Danny DeVito), but the team find themselves in a race against time as Crump (Jared Leto), the most powerful demon, continues to claim his victims and grow more powerful.
Disney continue to try and recreate the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise – which was also inspired by the original ride – with Haunted Mansion proving one of the most obvious opportunities to do so. Horror proves a very choppy genre for Disney, given the primary age of their target audience and riding the line between a tame, sugar-coated kid’s movie and a blood-curdling scream fest is where many have tripped up before. The first film is by no means good, but this one is better by a clear margin. With references to the ride in abundance, Haunted Mansion is a fun film that children will no doubt enjoy, and there are some jump scares that will even catch adults off guard.
The cast do the job that is asked of them, with Stanfield once again making for great viewing and playing the most developed character of them all, with the exploration of grief through his eyes being a bold and mature choice, but a magnificent one. Short, popping cameos from a number of actors help inject a few more laughs into this script, but sadly prove to be some of the more memorable scenes in the entire movie as a number of jokes fall flat and Dawson is also criminally left to wilt on the sideline.
The editing and Darren Gilford’s production design, which takes inspiration from the ride, is pleasing to the eye and the elegance of the mansion is lovely to see alongside New Orleans on camera, displaying the historic beauty of the city. However, outside of the mansion, the movie does look quite cheap and oozes CGI from every corner. Surely a little bit of makeup and external, on-location shooting wouldn’t have hurt?
The most painful element of Haunted Mansion is that, at over two hours long, you are willing the film to end well before the credits roll. What begins as a thrilling and promising rollercoaster ride becomes a complete grind as the drama unfolds. If you like ghost stories, the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland or are looking for a family-friendly gateway horror film, then this movie will be the one for you. If not, perhaps reserve it for one time viewing at Halloween.
Haunted Mansion is released nationwide on 11th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Haunted Mansion here: