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Movie review – Haunted Mansion – A Justin Simian Film

Haunted Mansion is directed by Justin Simian and is the second attempt at Disney making a Haunted Mansion movie after the 2003 film which starred Eddie Murphy. And here a single mom named Gabby hires a tour guide, a psychic, a priest, and a historian to help exercise her newly bought mansion after discovering it is inhabited by ghosts. It took me a long time to see the original Haunted Mansion because when it came out I was still a jojo witness and so I wasn’t allowed to watch ghost stuff, even though I was like 15.

And when I left that religion I never really saw it out because for years I had heard that it was awful, a very bad and embarrassing movie and a total failure. And I eventually decided to watch it just out of pure curiosity and I thought it was sort of okay. Like it’s really not as awful as I had heard. It’s by no means some great film or anything. Parts of it were entertaining enough though.

And after a long development process with Guillermo del Toro and even Ryan Gosling involved, Haunted Mansion has finally come out 20 years later. Having just seen Pirates of the Caribbean curse the Black Pearl in theaters because Disney is celebrating its 100th anniversary, I was reminded that it is very possible to take a theme park ride and make a great movie out of it.

With Haunted Mansion, I’m a big fan of that ride. My wife and I have gone on in many times. It’s one of my favorite rides at Disney. And while this movie certainly does not reach the heights of Pirates of the Caribbean, I do think that it is a very fun movie that kids will especially like. I think if I was 8 years old when this movie came out, I would have fucking loved it. I think this is a great gateway horror movie for kids.

Even though it’s rated PG-13, it has some mature exploration of things like grief as well as social anxiety. And when it comes to grief, that’s a very popular theme in horror movies but usually ones that are not aimed at children or families. Movies for adults. And so the fact that the lead character here played very well by Le Quitte’s stand field spends most of the movie grieving someone that he loved, this is something that kids aren’t used to seeing in horror and could be really healthy for them to see, especially since a lot of kids do unfortunately deal with grief if they lose a parent at a young age or someone else close to them.

A couple years back we had the house with a clock in its walls by Eli Roth and that movie had a character that was also dealing with the loss of parents but that was a young child. To have an adult man be the protagonist of haunted mansion and to have him deal with grief I think is a very bold move. But I also like how they dealt with the fact that he has social anxiety because for a lot of the movie he has depicted as being rude or mean, most people view him that way and maybe he is a little bit but in reality he’s just really bad at talking with people and has a hard time connecting with other people.

I think that’s something also that kids are going to appreciate and I think that we didn’t have a lot of characters like that in movies when I was a kid. If I had known that social anxiety was even a thing when I was a kid I might have gotten better at dealing with it earlier. But beyond all of this personal character stuff the movie is actually quite fun. There’s a lot of really good scare sequences and some surprising jumps that I think are really going to take kids off guard. But even as an adult I found myself really enjoying the film. They’re sort of a vibe that I’ve always searched for when it comes to movies and that is to experience the way I felt when I was reading a Goosebumps book as a kid and have that translated to a movie but in an adult form. The mortuary collection directed by Ryan Spindell definitely feels like adult Goosebumps.

But this movie does have that feel to me that welcome to Dead House or the headless ghost. I’m always going to have a soft spot for somebody creeping around the hallways of a haunted building. It’s just always going to be fun for me. I also found it funny that Owen Wilson is in this movie and he’s very likable as a priest who’s not your normal average priest but he’s also in the haunting which was also a remake about a haunted mansion.

I know I’ve been saying this a lot lately but I do think this film could have been about 10 or 15 minutes shorter and I’m not the kind of guy that needs a movie to be short or is afraid of long movies. I loved Oppenheimer that’s three hours long. I have always said that a movie is as long as it should be and it’s all about the edit. It’s all about the pacing. It doesn’t matter how long the film is. If it works it works.

Sometimes a movie drags for a bit and you feel that pacing starts to slow and you recognize it’s time to cut a little bit back and you start thinking like what could I have lost? Could I have lost a few of these scenes? Could they have been shorter? Was all the shots necessary? You know all that kind of stuff. I do feel like in this movie there’s some extra baggage that could have been trimmed.

There’s also some confusion about the rules of why they have to be there because some characters will come to the haunted mansion and then leave and they find out that they’re being haunted wherever they go so they have to come back to the haunted mansion to solve whatever the problem is otherwise they’ll continuously be haunted everywhere they go. But throughout the film they still leave the haunted mansion at random times like to go to a police station to get a character sketch of somebody and they don’t seem to be haunted then and there’s times where those rules aren’t entirely clear.

You also have to accept the fact that there is going to be some very obvious CG in the movie. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad or poorly done. It’s just noticeable. And I feel like if Guillermo del Toro had made the movie I wouldn’t be saying that. I’d probably be praising all of the practical makeup effects and I’m not doing that right now because the film relies heavily on CGI. Not that that’s a bad thing.

It’s just that it could have been better the other way. But honestly if my kids were like two or three years older I would have taken them to see this movie. I do think that this is going to be a very fun gateway horror film for a lot of young kids. We’re going to watch this movie and discover a passion for horror that maybe they never had before. But as an adult I wouldn’t expect the next great theme park ride turned into a movie movie but it’s still a really fun time.

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