Haunted Mansion  (12A) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Justin Simien, US 2023, 123 mins

Cast:  Lakeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Jamie Lee Curtis

Review by Carol Allen

This is the third attempt to make a feature film inspired by the Disneyworld ride of the same name.  I somehow missed the first two – The Haunted Mansion (2003) starring Eddie Murphy and Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021).   And to be honest, I wouldn’t have been devastated if I’d missed this one.  It’s sort of alright in that there’s a strong cast and some very effective ghosts.   But it’s really not very interesting, or emotionally enthralling and only intermittently funny.

The long winded opening features ghost sceptic and  scientist Ben Matthias (Lakeith Stanfield) and the love of his life, haunted-house tour guide (Charity Jordan).  After her death Ben becomes a haunted house guide himself – in honour of her memory?  Not clear.   And when pretty,young widow Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) moves into the New Orleans mansion of the title with her with her nine-year-old son Travis (Chase Dillon) and discovers, yes, it’s stuffed with spooks, she hires Ben and a full team of spook hunters to evict them.   Rest of the team are not very effective exorcist priest Father Kent (Owen Wilson), medium Harriet (Tiffany Haddish)  and haunted house expert Professor Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito).  

The story proceeds along predictable lines with some visually effective ghosts, particularly the villain of them all, the Hatbox Ghost played by Jared Leto as a sort of super malevolent Ebenezer Scrooge, had he died before reforming his wicked ways.   There’s also an amusing cameo from the ever reliable Jamie Lee Curtis as a bossy soothsayer trapped inside a crystal ball. 

The ghost effects are fun but not very scary, the human characters don’t really have much chance for development and as a cinematic ride there’s not much in the way of either thrills or laughs.  The most amusing sequence is behind the end credits, when the humans are seen partying with the now benign ghosts, who for some reason include a troupe of can-can dances.  Could have done with them earlier to liven things up.