Haunted Mansion

Verdict: Haunted Mansion needed to be funnier and scarier, but it was still an amusing and enjoyable family film.

  • Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny Devito
  • August 11th 2023
  • Justin Simien

LaKeith Stanfield plays a grieving widow who is hired to take photos of ghosts using his special paranormal camera at the titular mansion.

Disney first made a movie adaptation of its attraction The Haunted Mansion in 2003 and now, 20 years later, they’re releasing another.

Justin Simien’s reboot follows grieving window Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), who is hired by Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase W. Dillon) to take photos of ghosts at their home, the titular mansion, using his special paranormal camera.

With the added help of Father Kent (Owen Wilson), medium Harriet (Tiffany Haddish) and college professor Bruce (Danny DeVito), they try to get to the bottom of the mansion’s mystery to exorcise the ghosts for good.

Fans of the Disneyland ride will appreciate this film much more than those who have never been on it because there are so many references and Easter eggs to pick up on.

They will probably follow the story better too because the central mystery isn’t especially clear, despite sizeable moments of clunky exposition in which they try to explain it all.

The script is possibly the weakest element. The dialogue needed to be funnier and the characters, with the exception of Ben, needed more meat on their bones.

Also, while this is a family-friendly film, it could have been slightly scarier. The existing spooky moments would have possibly been more effective if the CGI was more convincing.

The ghosts didn’t look particularly real so that removed their scare power.

Despite those issues, it is still an enjoyable watch thanks to hilarious turns from Wilson, DeVito and Haddish, who do the best with what they’re given. Sure, this isn’t their funniest work, but that’s the script’s fault, not theirs.

In a similar vein, Dawson is totally wasted as Gabbie, who is underwritten and given very little to do.

But on a positive note, Stanfield does very well. He is awarded more substance and nuance than the others and gives Ben a believable vulnerability and sorrowful edge.

His exploration of grief is one of the film’s highlights and he delivers on the emotional front at the end.

Haunted Mansion has been absolutely slated by some. It has many issues, but it is still an amusing and enjoyable family film.

In cinemas from Friday 11th August.

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