Haunted Mansion (2023) will be released as a supernatural horror comedy, the second adaptation of Walt Disney’s theme park attraction. Unfortunately, the first film received negative feedback from fans who felt it spoiled their cherished childhood memories due to its poor script, bad performances, and simple plot that not even Eddie Murphy could save. As a result, some viewers may be hesitant to allow their children to watch the newest version. However, the 2023 version brilliantly captures the essence of Disney’s iconic theme park attraction, taking viewers on a thrilling ride through memory lane. The movie’s impeccable attention to detail offers an authentic experience that will captivate audiences of all ages. From the eerie atmosphere to the spine-tingling special effects and laugh-out-loud moments, this film successfully redeems the first film’s horrifying experience.
In Haunted Mansion (2023), a single mother and her son move into a mansion in New Orleans only to discover it is haunted. To rid their home of the ghosts, they hire a team consisting of a former paranormal investigator turned tour guide, a priest, a psychic, and a college history professor. As they delve into the hauntings and the mansion’s history, they uncover unsettling truths and realize that things are not as they appear. Alongside this, the human characters grapple with their struggles concerning grief, self-doubt, and the importance of family-both blood and chosen.
Unfortunately, the story follows the typical horror movie trope of a family wanting to start over who purchases an inexpensive mansion to find that it is haunted. The only redeeming quality is the exceptional writing of the screenplay. For example, when the mother sees the first hint that the mansion is haunted, she immediately nopes out of the situation, which is a refreshing and realistic response. Still, she is forced to return to the mansion because the ghosts follow them to multiple hotels, giving them a compelling reason to return and figure out why they are being haunted.
The screenplay was written by Katie Dippold, who is most known for writing on The Heat, Parks and Recreation, and Ghostbusters. The script of Haunted Mansion (2023) stands out from its predecessor by masterfully weaving together the tales of the living and dead, tackling weighty topics like death and grief with a blend of humor and horror. Even though the movie’s plot wasn’t unique, these elements elevate it beyond a bland story and make it effective.
In addition to its well-written script, the film’s score stands out right from the beginning with its lively jazz music that makes you yearn to stroll through New Orleans’ iconic streets. However, you’ll quickly rethink that wish as the score quickly changes from upbeat to ominous when we step foot inside the haunted mansion for the first time. From there score is effectively used to match the film’s different moods – be it humorous, poignant, or suspenseful – thereby intensifying the viewing experience for the audience.
The Special Effects
DNEG and Industrial Light & Magic were both responsible for the visual effects in Haunted Mansion (2023), whose combined works include Fast X, Nimona, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, and Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Both effects companies are highly respected, and the fact that both were chosen to provide special effects for the film demonstrates Disney’s dedication to ensuring this aspect of the film was executed correctly.
Overall, the Haunted Mansion’s visual effects were done well and used in appropriate spots in the film without feeling overused (mainly the spooky residents living at the mansion). There’s one scene at the end of the film that I won’t spoil, but it was like Deja Vu because of how well-crafted it was and how close to The Haunted Mansion ride it was.
However, the visual effects weren’t all great, and a few moments felt cheesy or out of place with the film’s primary use of practical effects. For instance, I laughed when The Hat-Box Ghost’s appearance was finally revealed because I was disappointed at how his appearance felt overly cheesy, like a bad Halloween costume, and all the leadup to him being this evil antagonist was a colossal letdown. I wasn’t afraid of him, and the payoff didn’t work for me, and kids would find him goofy looking rather than spooky.
The Haunted Mansion Ride
The Haunted Mansion is an attraction ride that can be found at Disneyland (1969), Magic Kingdom (1971), and Tokyo Disneyland (1983). The ride takes place on “Doom Buggies,” Omnimover vehicles. Riders can also view a walk-through show while waiting in line. Each location has its unique design, using a variety of technologies, including both old and new techniques, such as theatrical effects from centuries ago and modern special effects like spectral Audio-Animatronics.
Haunted Mansion (2023) is the second film based on their iconic ride, so you might wonder how authentic the film is to its source material. During an interview at the SDCC Directors on Directors’ Panel, Siemin told Collider that it was vital that they use practical in-camera effects instead of relying heavily on CGI. After visiting the ride the film is based on, he asked Disney to let him build the mansion and its interiors with meticulous details so that everything would look as authentic as possible.
As a child and adult, I visited The Haunted Mansion Ride at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. I can attest that the mansion’s interior, its eerie residents, and the practical and visual effects in the movie were exceptional and accurate to the ride. Recently, I had the pleasure of taking my grandmother to a screening of Haunted Mansion (2023), and we enjoyed reminiscing about our previous trips to the ride and was a delightful experience that allowed us to relive some cherished memories.
The Ensemble Cast
Haunted Mansion’s primary cast comprises LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Chase Dillon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jared Leto, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, and Tiffany Haddish. At first, I was a little skeptical about the strange casting of this group of actors, but it mostly worked. Each actor brought their personality and skills to the film, and what resulted was very entertaining. For instance, DeVito brought his zany personality and humor, while Stanfield brought his pain and sorrow.
However, I was most impressed by Dillon’s acting skills in his role as Travis. Despite being a young actor, he efficiently delivered humorous and emotional scenes and held his own among the adult cast. However, I found Haddish’s portrayal of Harriet exaggerated and not in line with the film’s comedic tone. As a result, I found myself cringing whenever she appeared on the screen. Instead, I wished they would have given Haddish’s role to Curtis as Curtis played the more convincing psychic with way less screen time. On another positive note, Leto’s voice performance as Alistair Crump was well done, which may relieve those worried about his previous antics and recent performances.
The Verdict – Enjoy the Ride
What makes Haunted Mansion (2023) so successful is the meticulous recreation of Disney’s iconic ride through practical and visual effects, a well-written script that covers heavy themes such as death and grief while balancing horror and humor equally, and the fantastic score that brings it all together. Older fans of the iconic ride will be pointing at the screen as they notice all the easter eggs from their favorite childhood experiences, while younger kids will be spooked, but in a fun way. Although it has a few drawbacks, mainly out-of-place visual effects, and a miscast actor, they are easily overlooked because of the enjoyable ride you will have while watching this movie.
- This article was updated on September 7th, 2023