Haunted Mansion Review: 999 Happy Laughs and Scares

Mark Pacis

Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion is the kind of horror movie for kids that’s just scary enough to make them check underneath the bed before leaping in but not so terrifying that they’d wet that same bed. The film brings to mind films like GremlinsGoosebumps, or Hocus Pocus—movies that make you feel scared but also laugh. Written by Katie Dippold, Haunted Mansion takes the legendary Disneyland ride and creates a story that envelopes that universe.

Thankfully, the movie makes good use of the ride’s elements and creates a more profound film than you realize. Haunted Mansion uses the theme of grief and pain to provide the movie with plenty of emotion and heart. In between, the film features a lot of lighthearted, dark, and sinister fun—a combination that would’ve made ride art directors Claude Coats and Marc Davis proud. Although Haunted Mansion is not a terrifying film, this is something to consider before taking young kids. There are scary-looking ghosts, a few good frights, and twisted moments. So while kids will be alternately laughing their heads off and fearfully covering their eyes, the adults will have their share of fun too.

Haunted Mansion is a hatbox-fresh comedy horror that slings Amblin’s heart, B-movie scares, and plenty of CGI on the screen.

Unfortunately, the movie features a lot of CGI usage. While some of it works, many of these sequences yank you away from the immersion that Justin Simien and his art crew created in this world. There is no seamless mix of practical and visual effects. The action scenes, in particular, can be hit-and-miss. The CGI usage makes the sequences feel clumsy and hurts the movie. 

To get hung up on that stuff misses what Haunted Mansion has to offer. The film is cast extraordinarily well, with believable relationships and good camaraderie. Lakeith Stanfield seems to be in touch with the film’s heartfelt and campy potential. The sugary-sweet relationship between Rosario Dawson and Chase Dillon is warm and winning. At the same time, Owen Wilson takes a thankless role and gives it a lot of heart. Tiffany Haddish and Danny DeVito added just the right amount of fun and energy to the proceedings. 

Overall, Haunted Mansion is a hatbox-fresh comedy horror that slings Amblin’s heart, B-movie scares, and plenty of CGI on the screen. The film is better than you think it will be and lives up to the nostalgic glory that fans of the classic ride will want. It concentrates on its target demographic without forgetting the non-ride goers in the crowd.

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

Haunted Mansion hits theaters on July 28th.