Earlier this week, FrankenSpear and I hit the local theaters to check out Haunted Mansion (2023)! You know I love haunted house & ghost movies! And as soon as we left, I knew I had to tell all of the HorrorFam.com readers about it.
After all, other movies have been getting ALL of the attention this summer (*ahem* Barbenheimer) and it’s unusual for a “Halloween”-y movie to make it’s theatrical debut in July (though definitely not the first time Disney’s made that mistake…) so Haunted Mansion could easily fly under your radar.
But the real question is: SHOULD Haunted Mansion remain unnoticed…?
Disney’s Haunted Mansion 2023 Plot (No Spoilers)
The plot of the 2023 Haunted Mansion movie can pretty much be summed up by one line of dialogue from the very ride the film is based on: “They have selected you to fill our quota, and they’ll haunt you until you return!”
A mother and son (Rosario Dawson and Chase W. Dillon) move into a new home to get a fresh start, immediately notice it’s insanely haunted, and try to leave. However, the hauntings don’t stop once they’ve left — the ghosts continue to menace them until they return to the house!
Not wanting to stay in a haunted house (even if it is a mansion hehe) nor be tormented everywhere else they go, they hire a priest (Owen Wilson), a scientist (LaKeith Stanfield), a psychic medium (Tiffany Haddish), and a college professor (Danny DeVito) — one-by-one — to help them escape. And, one-by-one, they ALL end up stuck in the haunted mansion.
Because the ghosts have a problem of their own. And THEY can’t be at peace until someone takes care of the ghost who’s haunting THEM!
999 Happy Haunts and ONE Immersion-Breaking Flaw
I’ll cut to the chase: I really enjoyed Disney’s Haunted Mansion! I thought it was great fun and could easily be a Halloween-time family favorite for the 2020s. It has a good sense of humor (Frank, most of our fellow theater watchers, and I all enjoyed plenty of laugh-out-loud moments!), it has fun visuals including top-notch costuming, its two-hour runtime moves along at a good clip, it doesn’t waste its talented cast (they each get to shine and be funny in different ways without it feeling forced), and it’s scary without being TOO scary.
Though, that said, it may not be appropriate for ALL ages. One small child in the theater group ahead of ours peed themselves in fright (the ghostly activities get pretty intense towards the end!) and some extra clean-up was needed by the theater’s staff. Basically: Any youngster who’d be scared of the Haunted Mansion ride will also be scared by this movie — use your best judgement!
Haunted Mansion is extremely playful while maintaining the overall spooky vibe. It’s very old-fashioned, in a way, and reminded me of the October childhood “sleepover” movies from my own (Millennial) generation. It’s what we all hyped Mr. Boogedy up to be in our minds… except it actually IS cool!
Though, like Mr. Boogedy, Disney’s Haunted Mansion isn’t without glaring flaws. While I enjoyed nearly every aspect of this film for the no brainer goofy ghost story that it is, there was ONE thing — one REPEATED thing — that took me out of the fantasy every time it happened: The blatant advertising.
These aren’t exact quotes, but they might as well be:
- “Write down your message in this high-quality, low-priced notebook I purchased at CVS.”
- “She was on her way home but she made one extra stop because she couldn’t resist the delicious, creamy allure of Baskin Robbins ice cream.”
- “I got this heavenly-scented organic cleansing sage on super sale at Costco!”
Kudos to the amazing cast for saying lines like those without cringing externally. That couldn’t have been easy! But, while they did their best, lines/moments like those took me out of the film. It was like having a 5-second commercial break every 20 minutes or so. And since it was almost always auditory (a spoken line of dialogue) rather than the crack-open-a-can-of-whatever-and-drink-it-with-the-label-facing-the-audience style of product placement, it was much more difficult to ignore.
But How Does Haunted Mansion (2023) Compare To…?
You’re probably wondering how Haunted Mansion (2023) compares to Haunted Mansion (2003) or Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021). Well, I’m not going to tell you. Both because I think that’s something you’ll need to determine for yourself (should you feel the need) and because I, personally, don’t think that’s a comparison that matters in terms of whether THIS movie is worth watching.
The one comparison that DOES matter in regard to Haunted Mansion (2023) is if it’s true to the the ride it’s based on!
I’ve been to Disneyland a small handful of times (in 1989, 1995, and 2006) and have had the distinct privilege of experiencing the Haunted Mansion ride on each of those occasions. And although my last trip was nearly 20 years ago, I still got wiggly with excitement whenever something I recognized from the ride showed up on screen. And there were a LOT of things!
Then, in preparation for this review, I watched several Haunted Mansion POV ride-throughs on YouTube and WOW!! There were even more things in the movie pulled directly from the ride than I’d initially thought!
Nearly every single detail was pulled from the ride in one way or another. Every painting, statue, wallpaper, hallway, chairs… EVERYTHING. Have a favorite Haunted Mansion ghost? They’re in the movie. Even if it’s just for a mere blink of a second.
Fans of the ride are going to be very excited by all of the work that went into recreating their favorite Disneyland experience as a believable location within the film’s world. However, you don’t need to be at all familiar with the ride in order to enjoy the movie (my husband has never been on the ride nor has he watched a single POV ride-through and he still enjoyed the film on its own merit!).
“Restless Bones Etherealize, Rise As Spooks of Every Size!”
Rise up from wherever you’re reading this post, hop into your Doom Buggy, and head to your local theater to catch Disney’s Haunted Mansion (2023)! This movie is a RIDE, just like it should be. (And, dare I say, perhaps the second best of Disney’s series of films based on their theme park attractions).
It’s been a while but… remember fun?
Haunted Mansion (2023) is just plain ol’ fun. Go out and get some laughs. Or, if you’re reading this from the future, check it out on streaming. Even if you just put it on in the background at your Halloween party, I think you’re going to smile. 🙂
Images were purchased via MovieStillsDB and used solely for review purposes.