Revisiting ‘The Haunted Mansion’

Going into this rewatch, I was incredibly nervous because this was one of my go-to films as a child. No matter the time of year, whenever this was on, I grabbed my popcorn and spent 86 minutes on the couch with my eyes glued to the TV. As a 20-year-old now, I am relieved to say that The Haunted Mansion is still fun to watch. It is by no means a perfect movie but it is one you can just sit back and enjoy with a couple of your friends to reminiscence on your childhood.

So The Haunted Mansion was based off the dark-ride attraction of the same name at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. It stars Eddie Murphy as a real estate agent whose wife gets a call about a mansion that needs to be sold. Instead of going on a planned “family adventure”, they make a quick stop to this mansion and all hell breaks loose as they discover the dark plans of the mansion’s butler, Ramsley(Terence Stamp).

I am still struggling to figure out where all the negativity comes from in regards to this movie. Most of the criticisms come from the lack of laughs or scares but apparently, the critics must have forgotten that there really is no source material for this movie. This is strictly based on the ride and if you love the ride like I do, you are going to enjoy this movie.

This movie is that ride. It goes through all the main points of the ride from the breathing door to the floating candle to Madame Leota and the haunted instruments. Everything you would want in a theme park attraction-based movie is in The Haunted Mansion. My favorite scene of this movie is still the singing busts when Jim and his kids are looking for the crypt in the mausoleum. I was happily singing along to each song that the busts were harmonizing to. That is the beautiful nostalgic fun this movie can bring. It made me feel like I was seven-years-old again.

Yes, Eddie Murphy’s acting is quite goofy and does not hit every comedic note that the movie is going for but that is made up for in a chilling performance from Terance Stamp as Ramsley. His deep, raspy voice is enough to strike fear and intimidation in the audience and I really appreciate the effort that he gave to that role for as silly as this movie is. Nathaniel Parker as Master Gracey gives a pretty damn good performance as well. His sells his heartbreak and frustration over the tragic death of his beloved Elizabeth quite well and his descent into madness as he keeps trying to convince Sarah that she is Elizabeth is one of the scarier parts of this film.

This is not the greatest film ever. It is not an award-winner. But there are some movies that you just need to put away your critical eye, lighten up, and just have some fun. That is what The Haunted Mansion is. When you go to a theme park, you are not there to critique the rides or atmosphere. You go there to experience and embrace all of that and that is what this film is. Pure fun and not trying to be something it is not.

Rating: 7/10

22 movies down, 9 to go.

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