This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
If you’ve ever met me, it comes as no surprise that I’m a diehard fan of the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland (or Gateway Horror for that matter). It is my must-ride any time I’m in the parks. I really enjoyed 2003’s The Haunted Mansion as well as Muppets Haunted Mansion. Since I was so fond of both of those iterations, I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t entirely sold on another comedic entry. I’m so glad I was wrong!
In Haunted Mansion, “A woman and her son enlist a motley crew of so-called spiritual experts to help rid their home of supernatural squatters.”
It’s hard to know where to start with this film. I loved so much about it. I suppose starting with the story is the best place. Haunted Mansion deals with grief and loss. Now, I’ll admit, this is something I’ve grown somewhat tired of seeing in horror, but in this film, it works well. I really appreciate that the story shows that found family can mean as much or more than the ones we are born or are married into. From humans to hitchhiking ghosts, the notion that we don’t have to be alone is an important and poignant throughline of the film.
Not only is the story in Haunted Mansion well done, but there are attraction references and easter eggs galore. I don’t want to spoil them for the avid fans so I won’t go into a ton of detail. However, I will say that fans and non-fans alike may want to familiarize themselves with Rolly Crump. Aside from that, you will definitely notice elements from the Disneyland and Walt Disney World iterations of the attraction.
The ensemble cast brought together for Haunted Mansion was another concern for me that I was absolutely wrong about. Individually, the actors and actresses are all very talented but I wasn’t sure if their comedic styles would be at odds with each other. I was also worried that the film would lean too much toward the comedic side with this particular group. Fortunately, none of my concerns came to pass. While the entire cast does a fantastic job, Lakeith Stanfield’s performance as Ben stands out as a great blend of comedic and serious. You really become invested in his character. As a fan of the attraction, I really dug Jamie Lee Curtis’ Madame Leota. Fortunately for viewers, there isn’t enough Jared Leto in the Hatbox Ghost to recognize it was him (this is a good thing).
Kris Bowers’ score is another highlight of Haunted Mansion. He works to blend the existing song Grim Grinning Ghosts and attraction music with a new score that will be perfect for a spooky autumn evening. I will admit that I’ve been listening to the soundtrack non-stop. I will warn that a precursor glance at the track listing does contain light spoilers, so hold off if you want to go in blind.
Overall, Haunted Mansion is absolutely everything I could have wanted given that it wasn’t straight horror. Yes, I’m still holding on to the hope that Guillermo del Toro will someday get to make an iteration of a Haunted Mansion movie. That said, this is a great gateway horror movie that pays a lot of respect to the lore of the attraction and its creators while addressing grief and loss. I definitely recommend it! Haunted Mansion is now out in theaters.
My Rating: 5/5