Haunted Mansion (2023) has no lack of spirit(s), but it is ultimately neither funny nor scary enough.
Haunted Mansion (2023) Synopsis
The death of his wife left New Orleans astrophysicist Ben Matthias a broken and humourless man, one who’s convinced that there are no ghosts too as he was unable to contact his wife’s spirit. After he is conned into investigating the Gracey Manor, though, Ben quickly learns that ghosts indeed exist; there are actually too many of them around. Ben’s debilitating grief soon invites the attention of a certain deadly entity too.adly entity too.
While waiting for the movieto start, popcorn and soda in hand, something occurred to me. Something that I’ve long since forgotten.
Haunted Mansion, as in the ride, was the first Disney attraction I was acquainted with as a kid. Nope, I’ve never been to Disneyland Anaheim but I used to have this picture book that featured the mansion in a storytelling way. Said book came with a 45 RPM vinyl too.
I used to listen to that recording again and again, and again; always had a thing for ghosts and the supernatural even as a kid. Strange, thus, that I forgot about it until moments before watching Justin Simien’s adaptation.
There’s only one reason for this, one and only one: the terrible 2003 adaptation starring Eddie Murphy. Not one of the worst movies I’ve ever watched, but certainly a movie I want to completely forget because it was so, soooo darn insipid. A must-mention for this review too because to me, the spectres that strangled Eddie’s version are, sadly, still all over this latest take.
What are these spectres? There are two. Firstly, both movies are based on an amusement park ride. In other words, there’s barely any story to work with. Any significant invention could also risk the “flavour” of the ride being lost.
Secondly, to befit the family-friendly attraction the ride is, any movie adaptation needs to be spooky, scary, but not too scary. We don’t want the kiddies having nightmares, do we? Just how do you do that for a two-hour movie without ending up in limbo? How do you be scary but not too scary and also funny for 120 minutes? I bet that while the Disney ride is enjoyable, especially after you’ve queued an hour for it, drag it out to 30 minutes and any child would be brawling.
To the cast’s credit, I think they worked hard to inject life into the show. The new persona of the Hatbox Ghost and the addition of tragic backstories also spiced the run with a few bright moments. But in the end, the restraints got to everyone. Might be just me but I felt Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, and even Jamie Lee Curtis were all checking themselves; none seemed to want to be too outrageous. LaKeith Stanfield, well, he’s a great actor and it shows. But this is also a case of the man being too good and so his believable sorrow soon has you feeling his role could be so much more.
In all, I can only say that while Haunted Mansion (2023) is definitely better than the 2003 adaption, it’s only by a margin. I certainly hope Disney doesn’t start getting ideas about sequels.
According to various online sources, and this is well-known, Guillermo del Toro was originally tagged as writer and producer but his script was rejected because it was too scary. You know what? I feel “scary” could have been the way to go. It would check the movie’s appeal but a masterpiece could have been created. Don’t you agree that would do the famous ride better justice?
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