Friday, August 11, 2023

Mousey Movies - Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansin movie poster showing the cast hovering over a crystal ball which contains a haunted house inside.

As Disney parks fans we have waited for years for a new Haunted Mansion movie. Many fans have mixed thoughts on 2003’s The Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy. Personally, I don’t like scary things so a more comical version was more than fine with me. We need to remember this is an attraction that creators debated scary versus funny. That debate led to a story that was a mix of both and we loved it. But it has seemed to me that the movie reboot debate has been let’s get something really different from Murphy’s take and make it scary, and that’s a no-thank you situation for me. Much like the first time I entered the Haunted Mansion, I was afraid to attend the 2023 movie on opening day…because I don’t do scary! And I heard this was scary,

For comic book fans, my summary is; Night Nurse shares a house with Mobius and the Joker won’t let them sleep!

Gabbie, a doctor, and her son Travis relocate near New Orleans to a dark and dusty Mansion. The two discover quickly that the house is haunted by ghosts they cannot escape. In trying to escape their fate, Gabbie gathers ups a rag-tag crew of a priest, an astrophysicist, a historian, and a medium who all get pulled into Gabbie and Travis’ fate. The group discovers that one spirit has more devious plans than haunting a family, and they must avoid becoming the last ghostly inhabitant of the mansion so he cannot gain his full dark power. Along with the horror comedy of the mansion, the group, such as astrophysicist Ben, struggle with their own grief and what the existence of ghosts could mean.

We came for the movie but stayed for the ride. Haunted Mansion attraction fans won’t be disappointed. The big bad is the Hatbox Ghost. And we mean bad, real bad. He’s not fun at all. There are stretching paintings, busts, and ghosts that all bring us into the ride. They pulled some much of the attraction in that I’m pretty sure I didn’t see it all and will still miss things when I rewatch on Disney+.

Is it scary? We have gotten a lot of questions from friends about can my ten-year-old, and my twelve-year-old watch the movie? You likely know your child’s horror tolerance. The Hatbox Ghost is scary and dark. The ghosts are definitely not always nice. There are a few jump scares. I hate scary, but this movie is well within my scare tolerance. It’s dark and forbidding, but no over-the-top gore and images that kept me from sleeping at night. If anything the Eddie Murphy crypt scene may be scarier than anything seen here in 2023.

Speaking of The Haunted Mansion. Personally, I enjoyed it. I still enjoy it. And I currently just see it as a separate thing in a different universe. There has been so much added over the decades to the attraction, I really don’t see any story as canon. To me, neither The Haunted Mansion or Haunted Mansion are the true and only story of the mansion. And I enjoy them both for what they are without either taking from the other.

We have to give a special call out to Danny Devito as Professor Bruce Davis. The man is a national treasure and must be protected at all costs. He delivers the best one-liners in the film. And while he doesn’t get to play a beloved classic character like Jamie Lee Curtis’ Madame Leota, he is a new fresh, and fun one that gave a lot to the film, especially when a laugh was needed. A member of my group did not enjoy the film as much as the rest but made sure to let us know that Devito was the actor she kept following throughout the film.

Sigh, did I mention Disney+? The box office for this release under performed, by so so much. There are clearly two reasons for this. First, Barbie and her friend Oppenheimer are dominating the box office at release. Having seen Barbie, it definitely felt more fresh and new and it also has a lot of nostalgia. While there are a lot of Haunted Mansion fans, Barbie definitely has more. Second, do you want to see a Halloween-themed movie in July? Disney originally was going to release The Marvels in this slot but switched movies. The July release seems questionable. But, it also allows Disney to add it to Disney+ before the fall holiday. Maybe Disney is playing chess here, accepting that the movie release window would mean less at the theater but maybe have more of an impact when it hits streaming! I enjoyed watching the movie in a theater, mine was actually packed on opening day with that energy, but I would have liked it better in the fall.

I really enjoyed Haunted Mansion. But the question I am getting is do I need to see it in the theater? If you are a Disney Parks fan, Haunted Mansion fan, or even a Halloween holiday fan, I think you really should see it big. But I think of my friend who is a genre fan but not really a Disney fan at all. He likely can wait for it to arrive on Disney+ mainly because the material likely means a little less to him than to me, the guy who showed up in the Hitchhiking Ghost baseball jersey to see the movie. He’s really going to be entertained and enjoy Haunted Mansion, but he’s likely to enjoy his living room seat just as much as a theater seat.


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