In the Haunted Mansion, the second movie adaptation of the Disneyland theme-park ride, a mother (Rosario Dawson) and her school-going boy (Chase Dillon) buy a haunted mansion and find out that they’re stuck with it.
See, once someone sets foot in the huge house that twists, turns and shifts rooms as if it’s from a Scooby Doo episode, they are cursed by ghosts. No matter where one escapes to, the spirits of the house begin haunting the person, and not the property, so one has no choice but to return.
The mansion is all but normal in the daytime but, at night, when the ghouls of duelling aristocrats, dead brides swinging axes, and badly bandaged mummies, float around creating havoc, one room becomes the family’s sanctuary. Racking their brain, the family invites a priest to de-haunt the house, who in turn persuades a quantum scientist-turned-tour guide to photograph ghosts, and these two bring in the town’s psychic charlatan to unravel the mystery (the cast is Owen Wilson, LaKeith Stanfield and Tiffany Haddish).
The house also gets an uninvited, and very intrigued, professor (Danny DeVito) as a bonus. The cast of characters later also find Jamie Lee Curtis as a woman in the orb — which, having never been to the Haunted Mansion theme-park ride, I’m guessing, is an important part of the story.
Director Justin Simien and screenwriter Katie Dippold succeed in making a better version of Haunted Mansion than the 2003 one starring Eddie Murphy
Director Justin Simien and screenwriter Katie Dippold (she penned the female-led Ghostbusters movie), succeed in making a better version of the film than the 2003 one starring Eddie Murphy.
Taking over the role of the main ghoul from Terrance Stamp is Jared Leto and, while Leto brings a fresh dose of menace to the role, given that he is almost never seen and that his booming voice is sporadically heard, the role could have been anyone.
The Scooby Doo vibe is far more pronounced than the last version; this creative choice (or probably a fluke, since Scooby belongs to the rival studio), is not a deterrent in the least.
The cast bring their A-game to a kiddie movie with Wilson, Stanfield and Haddish standing out from the rest. The special effects, sound and production design — and especially the small plot and the mystery-adventure nature of the screenplay — reminds one of the heydays of family films.
It’s a sigh of relief, because the film doesn’t indulge in adult subject matter or woke motifs that derail one’s interest. Take the family and relish the goofiness.
Released by Disney, Haunted Mansion is rated PG and is playing in cinemas worldwide
Published in Dawn, ICON, Aug 6th, 2023