Disney’s Haunted Mansion is a supernatural horror comedy movie that is the third film adaption of the classic Disneyland ride of the same name. The first was the popular version by Eddie Murphy in 2003, followed by a Muppet edition in 2021. This latest version is directed by Justin Simien, of Dear White People fame.
Simien took on the task of creating a Black-led live-action iteration of the spooky classic, with the film revolving around Gabbie (Rosario Dawson), a single mother who moves into a haunted antique house with her son Travis (Chase Dillon). To rid the house of its spectral inhabitants, they assemble a team of misfits, including astrophysicist Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), priest Father Kent (Owen Wilson), medium Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), and haunted house expert Professor Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito).
The storyline is quite linear – there is a haunted mansion, a bunch of misfits moved in, and they worked together to rid the truckload of ghosts in the mansion. Cue a happy ending.
Despite a star-studded cast, the film struggles to deliver on its potential. The script, penned by Katie Dippold who also wrote the reboot of Ghostbusters in 2016, fails to capitalise fully on the comedic talents of the ensemble, leaving their performances feeling underused. While Wilson and Haddish manage to squeeze some laughs out of their punchlines, most of the jokes fall flat. You have names like Wilson, DeVito and Haddish, we could have been falling off our seats laughing all the way from start till end.
The movie does, however, showcase its fun-loving origins by transforming the house into a surreal landscape. Nostalgic spookiness abounds with endless halls, eerie ceilings, gargoyles, hidden rooms, and ghostly portraits, evoking the charm of the original attraction. It is not easy to make a supernatural flick that will appeal to the family audience, including the little ones. On this note, Haunted Mansion did manage to strike a good balance, making it a potentially fun, first horror genre movie for kids.
Simien also managed to infuse the film with themes of grief and vulnerability, providing a thoughtful examination of how love can connect and strengthen us, even amidst haunting circumstances, adding more depth to an otherwise straightforward horror comedy.
While this movie based on a Disneyland ride is not going to make Disney a mountain of money like its counterpart, Pirates of the Caribbean, it is good enough for Disney’s core family target audience.
Haunted Mansion is now showing in Singapore cinemas.