Summary: A single mom named Gabbie hires a tour guide, a psychic, a priest and a historian to help exorcise her newly bought mansion after discovering it is inhabited by ghosts.
Cinema Release Dates: 31st August 2023 (Australia), TBA (Thailand), 11th August 2023 (UK), 28th July 2023 (USA)
VOD Release Dates: TBA
Director: Justin Simien
Screenwriter: Katie Dippold
Cast: J.R. Adduci (William Gracey), Mike Benitez (Gus), Ben Bladon (Hatchet Ghost), Erika Coleman (Eleanor Gracey), John Curran (Pickwick), Jamie Lee Curtis (Madame Leota), Rosario Dawson (Gabbie), Danny DeVito (Bruce Davis), Chase Dillon (Travis), Tiffany Haddish (Harriet), Ashley John (Lady Blue), Charity Jordan (Alyssa), Lindsay Lamb (The Bride), Jared Leto (Crump/Hatbox), Dan Levy (Vic), Hector Machado (John), Terrence Rosemore (Phineas), Winona Ryder (Pat), LaKeith Stanfield (Ben Matthias), Fedor Steer (Ezra), Creek Wilson (Mariner Ghost), Owen Wilson (Father Kent), Steven Zissis (Roger)
Running Time: 123 mins
Classification: PG (Australia), TBC (Thailand), 12-A (UK), PG13 (USA)
OUR HAUNTED MANSION REVIEWS
David Griffiths and Lee Griffiths’ Haunted Mansion Review
Someone said to me as I was walking into the premiere of Haunted Mansion “why would Disney make a film based on a ride?” I thought the answer to that question would be pretty obvious. First of all, one of the most successful Disney franchises – Pirates of The Caribbean – was based on a ride and second of all there are so many fans of and urban legends about the actual Haunted Mansion ride that it is a ripe for a story to be told – especially given that despite the ride being scary the previous film adaptions have gone the comedy route meaning that they have never captured the essence of what it feels like when you are at the attraction itself.
So, while that person was pondering the existence of the film my mind was focused on whether or not director Justin Simien had understood people’s fascination with the actual Haunted Mansion and whether he had found a decent way to capture that in the movie.
For those unaware of its backstory Disney’s Haunted Mansion is one of the most loved yet controversial Disney attractions. People have become fanatics over it and as a result there have been ‘stories’ told over the years. From rumours about a test rider literally being scared to death during the testing phase through to the fact that many of the artefacts found within, including Madame Leota’s spell book, are real and contain mystical powers. Then there is the hysteria around the Hatbox Ghost. He was a short-lived character at the mansion who quickly developed a cult following, but he simply disappeared very, very quickly. The Mansion creators said it was because the illusion never worked properly but of course the fanatics have other ideas about that. To me this film wouldn’t really capture the essence of the attraction if it didn’t feature some of those things.
To his credit I must say that Simien has been creative with this film aided by a pretty decent screenplay by Katie Dippold. Their story revolves around the damaged Ben Matthias (LaKeith Stanfield) a gifted scientist who has never recovered from the death of his wife. He was so gifted that he created a device that allowed ghosts to be photographed but today he wastes his time running tours of New Orleans while constantly drunk. Despite his past he also no longer believes in ghosts.
His life suddenly takes a turn though when a Priest named Father Kent (Owen Wilson) shows up at his door and offers him money to come and help a young family, Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and Travis (Chase Dillon), who have a serious haunting issue at the home they have bought. So serious in fact that Gabbie, Travis and Kent now must spend every night at the mansion despite the horrors they endure.
Soon Ben finds himself part of a team that also includes a psychic named Harriet (Tiffany Haddish) and a historian, Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito). Together they must solve what is causing the haunting in order to free themselves from the mansion and its hold.
I found myself very, very quickly won over by Haunted Mansion as a film. As soon as it started to delve into the mysticism and spiritualism of New Orleans I knew that Simien and Dippold understood the history of the real Haunted Mansion. When they then introduced the characters of Madame Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis), her spell-book and the Hatbox Ghost – here through his backstory known as Crump (Jared Leto) – I knew that for once we had a Haunted Mansion film that fans of the attraction were going to lap up.
Also to the credit of the filmmakers I found that the film was a lot darker than I expected. Even the backstory of Ben is a lot more confronting than what you would expect from a regular Disney film and it felt that Simien took this film from the family genre and really embraced the supernatural/horror elements of it. In a way the film sits more firmly aside ‘family’ films like Harry Potter and The Witches of Eastwick then it does many of the tamer films we have seen in the family genre over the past few years.
Dippold has delivered a great screenplay for characterisation and I found that enhanced some of the performances. Danny DeVito, Tiffany Haddish and Owen Wilson embrace the quirky nature of their characters and bring it to the screen with comical results while I found the highlight of the film for me was the performance of LaKeith Stanfield. He goes through the actor’s wringer here going from dark and brooding to the all-out hero with a performance that more than shows he is certainly one of Hollywood’s leading men nowadays.
With some amazing special effects and a story a lot darker than I expected I found Haunted Mansion to be a film that certainly captures the vibe of the attraction. But while those fanatics are going to love the film I do wonder how the film will be received by cinema audiences. It is certainly a little too dark for younger children so perhaps air on the side of caution if you were thinking about bringing your kids along to it – what I would say though is that if they love Harry Potter then there is a good chance they will like Haunted Mansion. To conclude Haunted Mansion really surprised me with its tone but that is what made me fall in love with it the most… and now I want to buy a ticket to New Orleans as quickly as I can.
David’s rating Out Of 5
Lee’s rating Out Of 5
Alex First’s Haunted Mansion Review
Disney has a good track record of turning theme park attractions into cinematic success.
Think Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise.
Now comes Haunted Mansion.
A widowed doctor from New York, Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her nine-year-old son Travis (Chase W. Dillon), who has trouble making friends, move to New Orleans.
It is where Gabbie’s mother once lived.
They choose an unusually affordable large, historic place, just outside the city, known as Gracey Manor.
Within moments, it is clear that the home is haunted, beset by a mix of wild spirits, some playful and others much more menacing.
Gabbie decides to get out quick smart, but she and her son soon realise that because they have set foot in there, the apparitions won’t let go.
Put simply, they must find a way to exorcise the demons or, at the very least, learn to live with them.
Enter an unpriestly priest, Father Kent (Owen Wilson), who enlists the help of various, so-called experts to try to rid Gracey Manor of unwanted guests.
Ben (LaKeith Stanfield) is a former astrophysicist grieving the death of his wife, who now leads ghost tours of the city.
Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito) is a university professor with a bad ticker, proficient in the haunted history in the city.
Harriet (Tiffany Haddish) is an opportunistic French Quarter medium.
They have their work cut out for them.
Written by Katie Dippold, with direction from Justin Simien, Haunted Mansion is a wild ride that combines humour with horror and heart.
Think of a pretty cheesy romp.
It certainly isn’t very scary, although some of the ghosts leave their mark.
LaKeith Stanfield does a fine job as the leading figure in the piece.
Ben’s life has well and truly derailed since his beloved wife passed away and this call for help gives him a chance to reconnect with the world.
Owen Wilson has a hoot as questionable spiritual adviser, bringing a playful quality to his role.
Danny DeVito brings frenzied glee to his representation of the academic.
Tiffany Haddishintroduces a level of indignance to her characterisation of a psychic trying to be taken seriously.
There’s a warmth about Rosario Dawson as a mother trying to protect her son.
I also appreciate the facial expressions Chase W. Dillon imbues into the primary school student.
Haunted Mansion also features Jamie Lee Curtis as an ancient psychic trapped in a crystal ball.
I can’t say the film really set the world on fire for me and at a tad over two hours it felt somewhat stretched. Still, it may for worth considering for the younger audience, it is clearly aimed at.
David’s rating Out Of 5
Average Subculture rating Out Of 5
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