In Disney’s ‘Haunted Mansion,’ Gabbie and her son Travis have just barely moved into their brand new home when they realize something more sinister is afoot. As they continue to encounter the unruly ghosts that haunt the property, they seek help from an unlikely group of spiritual experts to rid them of the spooky souls once and for all.
Who Is In The Cast Of ‘Haunted Mansion’?
‘Haunted Mansion’ is a love letter to the iconic theme park ride, filled with references and Easter eggs that will satisfy longtime fans. The horror element is just light enough for a younger audience, with adequate jump scares and ghastly images. LaKeith Stanfield gives a standout performance as Ben, who has an unexpected story of loss and grief that serves as the emotional core of the movie. However, the film focuses on too many storylines, causing the pacing to be uneven.
Story and Direction
The screenplay was written by Katie Dippold and directed by Justin Simien, a former Disneyland Cast Member. Unlike the 2003 ‘The Haunted Mansion’ starring Eddie Murphy, which portrayed the mansion in a more cartoony manner, the 2023 adaption properly showcases the Haunted Mansion that is known amongst parkgoers. Essentially, the mansion is a character in itself and is highlighted as so.
In the trailer, the story seemed to center on Gabbie and Travis, the newest residents of the mansion. However, the main focus is really on Stanfield’s Ben Mathis. At the beginning of the movie, Ben is passionate about his work with the paranormal, creating a special camera that spots spirits. Due to unforeseen circumstances, which are later discovered at the end of the second act, a morose Ben emerges, having given up on his supernatural career.
Using Ben’s story and connecting him to the mansion is quite clever. Father Kent, who had heard of Ben’s work, comes to him with a well-compensated offer – to use his special camera to capture the spirits on film. It is only then Ben agrees to visit Gabbie and Travis at the mansion. At first, Ben tries to remain unphased and skeptical through every supernatural encounter. It isn’t until an unexpected spirit that begins making waves in his every life he is forced to return to the mansion. With the help of psychic Harriet, Father Kent, and Professor Bruce, Ben searches for answers on why Gabbie’s new home is a hotspot for ghosts.
By telling Ben’s unexpected story of loss and grief, it provides a deeper meaning than just a cursed manor. It dives into the history of the mansion and the fascinating origins of several spirits that reside there.
Haddish’s hilarious performance stood out with the best story arc. Initially, she was an insecure medium who didn’t feel strong enough to battle the big bad of the mansion, but she came into her own after proving herself capable. Though Haddish’s Harriet was entertaining, the same could not be said with the other characters’ various storylines. There were just too many stories to keep up with, which felt convoluted and unnecessary.
Just like the ride, ‘Haunted Mansion’ has to strike that perfect balance of humor and horror. It succeeds in most parts, giving solid jump scares and eerie elements. However, many emotional scenes were met with a lighter moment to break up the tension. It isn’t uncommon to use this approach in film, though the jokes that follow a heartfelt moment come too quickly, leaving those emotional scenes feeling less meaningful.
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A Fantastic Tribute To The Iconic Ride
When a movie is based on an iconic theme park ride such as ‘Haunted Mansion,’ fans will expect to see references and Easter eggs. What this movie does so well is that it gives nods to the ride without feeling out of place. It happens naturally as the characters explore parts of the mansion and learn of its history rather than being shoehorned in for the purpose of an Easter egg.
Here are some of the Easter eggs you can expect to see:
- Madame Leota
- The Hatbox Ghost
- The dueling ghosts
- The “Donald Duck” chair
- The stretching room and its portraits
- The endless hallway
- Hitchhiking ghosts
- The Bride/Constance Hatchaway
- 13 hour clock
- The suit of armor
Fans of the ride will certainly enjoy seeing the iconic Haunted Mansion being properly featured and highlighted on the big screen. Every Easter egg and reference spotted will leave a smile on your face. Stanfield is fantastic in this role, bringing much heart with his emotional performance. The pacing and tonal shift are uneven as it tries to find the balance between humor and horror and juggling too many storylines. Although it is definitely better than the 2003 adaptation and a bit ambitious with the all-star cast, it is still entertaining and fun for all ages.
‘Haunted Mansion’ receives 6 out of 10 stars.
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