Film review: Haunted Mansion (2023) – A charming and spooky family comedy

Disney’s Haunted Mansion, directed by Justin Simien and written by Katie Dippold, brings the beloved theme park attraction to life once again on the big screen. While the concept of adapting a ride into a movie may raise eyebrows, this latest attempt proves to be a delightful surprise, offering a ghoulishly enjoyable experience for audiences of all ages.

Think Ghostbusters meets Night at the museum meets Goosebumps and there you have Haunted Mansion. But the question remains: why is Disney releasing a Halloween movie in August?

Haunted Mansion london mums magazine collage

The story 

The film opens by introducing us to Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase W. Dillon), who move into a mysterious mansion in New Orleans, only to discover that it’s haunted by 999 ghosts. In order to rid the house of these spirits, they seek the help of Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), a paranormal tour guide, Father Kent (Owen Wilson), a priest, psychic Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), and historian Bruce Davis (Danny De Vito). Together, they must navigate the haunted mansion and confront the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto), the most terrifying spirit of all, while receiving guidance from Madame Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis), a psychic trapped in her crystal ball.

The trailer


The verdict

The film’s strength lies in its excellent ensemble cast, which includes accomplished actors such as LaKeith Stanfield, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, and Danny DeVito. Their chemistry on-screen is palpable, and they skilfully play off each other’s performances, making the movie enjoyable to watch. Stanfield’s portrayal of Ben, in particular, brings a depth of emotion as he grapples with the loss of his partner, Alyssa (Charity Jordan). Meanwhile, Haddish’s over-the-top portrayal of the psychic Harriet adds a fun and quirky element to the group dynamic.

Simien and Dippold successfully capture the essence of the Haunted Mansion ride while crafting a new and engaging story. Unlike the previous attempt in 2003 with Eddie Murphy, this adaptation uses the ride as a starting point rather than sticking rigidly to its plot. The references to the ride are cleverly woven into the narrative, enhancing the story’s charm and appeal. The film also manages to explore themes of loss, death, and the importance of family bonds, all while maintaining a light and enjoyable tone.

Visually, Haunted Mansion excels at bringing the theme park attraction to life on the big screen. Simien’s direction effectively utilises the iconic elements of the ride, such as the Hitch-hiking Ghosts, the Stretching Room, and the floating candelabra, creating an immersive and captivating experience. The film’s design and special effects work seamlessly together to create a spooky yet fun atmosphere that captures the spirit of the Haunted Mansion.

However, Haunted Mansion is not without its shortcomings. Some may find the plot convoluted and the exposition in the beginning a bit drawn out. The film also misses an opportunity to delve deeper into the horror aspects of the story, opting for a more family-friendly approach instead. While this choice is understandable given Disney’s target audience, it might leave some viewers wishing for a more intense and truly chilling haunted house experience.

It’s also worth mentioning that Haunted Mansion‘s release in August, rather than closer to Halloween, may raise some eyebrows. However, the movie’s heartwarming and comedic elements make it suitable for a family-friendly summer release, where audiences can enjoy a spooky adventure without getting too frightened.

The Haunted Mansion 2023 version is a charming and delightful film that successfully captures the spirit of the beloved theme park ride. The excellent ensemble cast, along with Simien’s skilful direction and Dippold’s clever screenplay, make this adaptation an entertaining and enjoyable experience for audiences of all ages. While it may not delve into the depths of horror, Haunted Mansion strikes a perfect balance between spookiness and fun, making it a worthy addition to Disney’s roster of live-action adaptations. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the original ride or a newcomer, Haunted Mansion is a family comedy that is sure to leave you with a ghoulishly good time. Finally a movie which is pure entertainment without any political agenda o controversy (unlike the latest Barbie and The little Mermaid movies). Is Disney finally understood that what we want from the cinema is just good entertainment?

London Mums’ rating: 7/10 

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