Haunted Mansion (Theatrical)

A single mom named Gabbie hires a tour guide, a psychic, a priest and a historian to help exorcise her newly bought mansion after discovering it is inhabited by ghosts.

August 11, 2023 4 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

July seems like a weird time to release a Haunted Mansion film, but I don’t work at Disney, and they didn’t ask me. Maybe they assumed the crowded market, with kids out of school, would bring in the big bucks. That, or they’re banking on it having long legs on the streaming service if it premiers in October. Still, I found the film to be one of the summer’s pleasant surprises. It can be hard not to miss Eddie Murphy, but hey, that version has been made and here we are. We can’t always expect much from films based on a Disney ride, but this one brings a lot of fun to the proceedings. This is in large part due to the talented and committed cast as well as nicely done special effects. It all makes for a pleasant night out at the movies.

We meet Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son, Travis (Chase W. Dillon) who have just moved into an inherited mansion. The trouble is that the mansion is plagued with ghosts and evil spirits (I hate when that happens). Gabbie enlists the help of a paranormal tour guide, Ben (LaKeith Stanfield) who is coping with loss. Additional help arrives in the form of a priest named Kent (Owen Wilson) and a historian named Bruce (Danny DeVito). They’re all trying to understand just what is going on with the mansion and our villain is the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto) with motives of his own. Jamie Lee Curtis also has a small part here as she arrives in a crystal ball. The effects are well done, and the frights are earned as well as some good laughs. I appreciated that it doesn’t go overboard with the humor, but with Owen Wilson here, it’s hard not to maintain a grin on your face. The (mostly) singular setting provides a lot of opportunity for some good frights as the narrow hallways and loud noises keep us (and the characters) on edge. It all builds to an inevitably loud climax including frantic actions that must be made. Some of it is familiar, but it helps when we care about the characters and I did.

Color me surprised as I had a lot of fun with this film. Eddie Murphy is great, but I feel this to be the superior version. Thankfully, it comes with an appropriate PG-13 rating, and had the right number of frights and laughs. There’s even an emotional draw here as two of the central characters are coping with loss and learn how to deal with it. As often the case with a lot of modern films, this one does run a bit long. With maybe 10-15 minutes nixed, the results would’ve been a bit more effective, but it’s hard to deny the good time this film offers.

The Bottom Line

Haunted Mansion is one of summer’s pleasant surprises. The summer release date may feel awkward, but this one is a winner. Some viewers may be intentionally waiting to see it around Halloween time and that’s perfectly understandable. I had a good time with it and look forward to a second viewing down the road. Recommended.