Haunted Mansion is a Reanimated Mess

Some things are better left dead

Reader Rating0 Votes
Great cast
Makes you appreciate Morbius a little more...
Great cast being wasted
Almost negligible script
No scares, no laughs

If there’s a lesson to be taken from monster flicks, Zombieland’s “double tap” zombie-survival rule might be one to heed. Continuing their string of forcing brands onto the big screen via live-action vehicles, Disney’s newest attempt with Haunted Mansion is a painful experience. Even referring to it as a zombification of the earlier iteration does the twenty-year-old film a disservice, no matter how well it may have fared then.

While the cast of this remake is undoubtedly stellar, little can be done to salvage what they’ve been given to work with. From shoddy storytelling to incoherent character interactions and development, Haunted Mansion’s film somehow does a poorer job of conveying a narrative than the ride itself.

A key fatality factor is the movie’s insistence on taking itself too seriously. While the 2003 version was very much a family-friendly movie entrenched in campiness, it seemed to, at least, understand its primary audience… and that it was essentially a feature-length commercial for a ride.

While the movie’s dedication in attempting to adapt the mechanics of the ride for the movie is certainly admirable, it often leaves the viewer cold. Essentially, if you’ve not been on, or don’t recall, the ride, certain aspects of the film’s “scares” just comes off as needless and visually unimpressive. After all, much of Disneyland’s physical experiences are notable due to their engineering and implementation. In an age of CG-everything in film, none of that sense of awe is present here.

And, amidst all of the gags and references, is a story that tries very hard to make it more than just about pushing yet another Disney IP into the franchise mold. While the direction of the effort helps introduce some genuine characters, the utility of every horror/feel-good family movie trope does little more than simply further congest an already busy movie.

It’s clear that Haunted Mansion had hoped its cast would offer salvation. Unfortunately, the talent is quickly squandered on the aforementioned tropes, with the usual charisma powerhouses of Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, and Danny DeVito falling flat. Even the usually pleasant watches that are LaKeith Stanfield and Rosario Dawson don’t quite strike the note here.

In all, it’s a bit of a pity that Haunted Mansion is what it is. While launching the next Pirates of the Caribbean was always a bit of a long shot (hell, it was a long shot even for the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels), it should not be this hard to deliver a decent film based on an already-existing narrative.

Nevertheless, Haunted Mansion hits Singapore theatres on August 10, and is already out in most places.