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.
Pirates of the Caribbean revolutionized Disney, showing that a movie based on a theme park ride could be successful. Although the original Haunted Mansion (2003) and The Country Bear (2002) were disappointments and a terrible way to start all of this, Pirates of the Caribbean became a successful franchise, led by Johnny Depp, it amused fans all over the world, that still wonder if we’re ever seeing another Jack Sparrow adventure again. Disney faced another setback with Tomorrowland (2015), being a massive box office flop and also basically no one liked it, but Jungle Cruise, that released during the pandemic era, was surprisingly enjoyable and a worthy movie, despite not being something huge, it was a fun time.
Disney takes another shot with Haunted Mansion, delivering a fresh take on the story with a new cast and something totally different from what we saw 20 years ago. Haunted Mansion follows the journey of Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), an astrophysicist who invents a camera capable of capturing ghosts. When he meets the love of his life he really found out what mattered for him, that until she tragically dies in a car accident. Years later, Ben is hired by a woman to investigate a haunted mansion alongside a priest named Kent (Owen Wilson). They soon discover that once you enter the mansion, there’s no escape, and if you live you will be haunted by a ghost for the rest of your life. Together with Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase Dillon), they form a team to uncover the mansion’s deepest secrets and vanquish the evil lurking within.
I’ll avoid spoilers to preserve your movie experience. The film starts and ends on a high note, being enjoyable all the time, despite of having its slow moments it still manages to hook you up for the whole movie. It’s the type of movie where you can predict the outcome but still have a great time watching it. The jokes and characters are enjoyable. Ben, dealing with the heavy weight of loss and grief after his wife’s passing, is a deeply developed character and seeing his growth throughout the movie is such an inspiring thing to see. Each character undergoes their own growth and development, making the adventure even more enjoyable.
While not groundbreaking, it’s a straightforward story about a team of individuals battling a malevolent force in this haunted mansion. The ghosts aren’t the true villains; that role belongs to Allistair Crump (Jared Leto), who delivers a terrifying performance. His mannerisms, voice, and every detail made him such a scary and dark character.
The movie isn’t particularly scary for adults, but it could definitely give some kids nightmares due to the costumes and makeup which are so well made. I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the film technically. The CGI is flawless with no moments that felt fake or poorly executed. The cinematography is exceptional, and the score is alright yet forgettable.
The movie does have its flaws, mostly stemming from the script. There are moments of slow dialogue and generic scenes with predictable resolutions to certain issues. Additionally, the use of colors felt excessively dark throughout, even for a “horror” movie. Despite these flaws, they didn’t heavily impact my enjoyment of the film. Danny DeVito delivers his usual funny and exceptional performance as this goofy professor with heart problems.
Director Justin Simien did an excellent job remaking the Haunted Mansion movie, creating a completely different experience from what we’re familiar with. Haunted Mansion is a highly enjoyable and well-crafted film, featuring a talented cast and an unexpectedly poignant exploration of loss and grief. It’s a great watch for audiences of all ages.
Haunted Mansion releases in theaters on July 28.