The Haunted Mansion

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jim Evers is a workaholic real estate agent whose continuous pursuit for new deals leaves very little time with his family. He misses his wedding anniversary with his wife Sara, but to make amends, suggesting going on vacation to a nearby lake. Beforehand, Sara is contacted by the occupants of Gracey Manor, located in the Louisiana bayou. Eager to make a deal, Jim drags Sara and his children Megan and Michael to the mansion. They meet its owner Edward Gracey, his stern butler Ramsley, and other staff members Emma and Ezra. When a storm floods the nearby river, Gracey allows the Evers to stay the night, though everyone save Jim is unhappy with the idea. Ramsley takes Jim down to the library to have a talk with Gracey, but while he waits, Jim gets trapped in a secret passage.

Megan and Michael encounter a spectral orb and follow it up to the attic, where they find a portrait of a woman resembling Sara. Sara herself talks with Gracey in the library, who explains his grandfather hanged himself after his lover Elizabeth Henshaw poisoned herself despite their plans to wed. Jim meets Madame Leota, a gypsy woman’s ghost whose head is encased in a crystal ball, but she scares him away. Jim runs into his children, Emma and Ezra, and returns to Madame Leota for answers about Elizabeth’s likeness to Sara. It is revealed everyone in the mansion are ghosts, cursed a century ago by Gracey and Elizabeth’s suicides and can only go to the afterlife when they are reunited, and Gracey believes Sara is his lover back from the dead. Madame Leota sends the Evers off to the mansion’s expansive cemetery to find a key which will reveal the truth behind Elizabeth’s unusual death. Jim and Megan venture into a crypt where they find the key, but disturb its undead residents. They escape with help from Michael. Madame Leota then instructs them to find a trunk in the attic, Jim unlocking it to find a letter written by Elizabeth to Gracey, revealing she wanted to marry, revealing she was murdered. Ramsley suddenly appears, revealing he poisoned Elizabeth to prevent Gracey from abandoning his heritage. To hide the truth, he traps the children in a trunk and throws Jim out of the house, enchanting the house so Jim cannot break in.

Gracey and Sara enter the ballroom. He asks Sarah if she can recognize him which confuses her. Desperate, he insists to Sara that she is his beloved Elizabeth from long ago. The room fills with ballroom dancing ghosts of the past which causes Sara to flee from the room. As she runs up the stairs Gracey reveals his true ghost self to Sara begging her to understand and that she really is Elizabeth and that they can finally be together. She shouts that she is not Elizabeth and slams the door in his face. Gracey begins to believe that Sarah can’t Elizabeth because she doesn’t remember him. But Ramsley insists that it is her and that in time she will remember. Ramsley tells Sara to get ready for her wedding to Gracey. Sarah refuses but Ramsley blackmails her into marrying Gracey in return for her children’s safety. Encouraged by Madame Leota, Jim drives his car through the mansion’s conservatory, rescues his children, and stops Sara and Gracey’s wedding ceremony where he gives Elizabeth’s real letter to Gracey. Gracey confronts Ramsley, who rages at his master’s apparent selfishness for loving Elizabeth, and summons wraiths to kill the group. However, a fiery dragon emerges from the ballroom fireplace and drags Ramsley down to hell for eternal damnation for his crimes. Sara suddenly collapses, having been poisoned by Ramsley during the wedding, only for the spectral orb encountered by the children to appear and possess Sara, revealed to be Elizabeth’s ghost. Elizabeth and Gracey reunite, and Sara is revived. With the curse lifted, Gracey gives the Evers the mansion’s deed and departs to the afterlife with Elizabeth, Emma, Ezra, and the other ghosts.

The Evers head off on a proper vacation, accompanied by Madame Leota, and four singing busts strapped to the back of their car. In a post-credits scene, Madame Leota bids farewell to the audience, inviting them to join the dead using dialogue from the Disneyland attraction.

REVIEW:

Anyone that has ever been to Disneyworld, or knows anything about Disney, is at least somewhat familiar with the fact that this film The Haunted Mansion, much in the same vein as the first Pirates of the Caribbean was an attempt to bring the ride to life on the big screen. However, it wasn’t the huge success that some assumed it would be, but why is that, besides not have a mega budget?

What is this about?

When Jim Evers, his wife and kids encounter a ghost while visiting a haunted house during a job interview, they get a crash course in family values.

What did I like?

Tragic story. Well, we can’t have a big haunted house without some tragic history, right? In this case, the well to do owner of the house has his beloved taken away from him through an apparent suicide that, from what I can tell, closed to door for all spirits to pass through on those grounds. Truly this is a tragic love story. Imagine if Scarlett O’Hara hung herself and Rhett Butler was heartbroken for centuries about her death. So much so, that he stays and searches for his lost love to be reincarnated.

Kneel before Stamp. Terrence Stamp can really play the stoic villain. Some forget that he was the iconic villain in Superman II, General Zod. This character calls for him to be a proper British butler and also a delusional ghost who takes his duties too far, I’ll leave it at that. This film isn’t known for being scary, but Stamp makes an attempt to add in a bit of haunting that it severely needed.

Ghostly appearance. I was gearing up to complain about the way the special effects in this film look a bit…unkept, but then I noticed something about the ghosts. They have the appearance reminiscent of the ride. Say what you will about this film, at least it is making an attempt to stick to its roots. Can the other films based on rides say that? Ok…maybe Tower of Terror, but that was specifically made as an advertisement for that particular ride. I have to tip my hat to the effects department for being cheap and having it work.

What didn’t I like?

Haunted? I know that this is a Disney film about a Disney ride and all that jazz, but should something that has the word haunted in the title, actually make you feel a little bit scared in a place or two? I’m not talking full-on horror, obviously (though with the stuff that comes out today, this might actually fit in), but rather something more along the lines of a jump scare here and there. Terrence Stamp was doing a good job with his random appearances scaring the family, but that wasn’t toward the audience. I would have liked for there to have been something more haunting about this haunted mansion.

Poker head. Jennifer Tilly has had quite the interesting career. However, these days she is known mostly for her distinctive voice. Can you imagine a film starring her and Joey Lauren Adams? Oh…and get Macy Gray to do the soundtrack! Ugh! That would kill us all! Anyway, Tilly’s voice is not the only thing that gets her noticed, as she has quite the attractive body. I don’t need to tell you that there are a couple of things that can’t help but be noticed. With that said, why take away Jennifer’s body and make her a head in a jar? Seems to me that her character could have conjured up a body to help with the ongoings in the climax, rather than stay in the crashed car trapped by an airbag. I’m just saying!

Eddie, oh Eddie. Many wonder where it is that we can pinpoint the moment that Eddie Murphy’s career started to take a downward spiral and he lost his way, so to speak. This is often considered that point. As far as performances go, yeah, this isn’t Murphy on the top of his game. I’ve long said that he belongs making comedies where he can just let f-bombs fly left and right. Since this is a family picture, he had to struggle to say “crap”. Personally, I don’t think this was the film for Murphy. He did an ok job, but someone more used to doing films like this would have fit in more.

The Haunted Mansion is one of those films that you forget exists because if so overshadowed by the success of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates franchise. Still, there were people who went out to see this. No, it wasn’t a huge blockbuster, but it did earn double the budget back. Will this make anyone want to go ride the ride? Perhaps, but I don’t see anyone having nightmares after watching the picture. Do I recommend this? With Halloween coming up next month, I am sure  you’re looking for something to show early on in your party. Well, that’s what this is for! That and background noise. Use in good health!

3 out of 5 stars

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