[Film review] Haunted Mansion

Review by John P. Harvey.

An all-round likeable thrill-ride of an adventure story, Haunted Mansion is a spinoff from Disney theme-park rides of the same name (and an updated remake of the 2003 film The Haunted Mansion) and uses that mansion’s same external architecture.  Internally, though, the house is cinematically enhanced… randomly variable… and dangerous.

When Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son, Travis (Chase W. Dillon), move into a veritable mansion, its ghosts creep them out, so they leave, intending never to return. Soon, though, they’re back — with no choice but to seek help.

When Father Kent (Owen Wilson), a priest with a difference, has tried his box of tricks to rid the house of the ghosts, he seeks the help of inventor Ben Matthias (LaKeith Stanfield).  Ben has retired from astrophysics work since the death of his wife, Alyssa (Charity Jordan), and the commercial failure of his ghost-spotting camera.  But Ben’s “ghost camera” may provide them with a fighting chance against the ghosts.

Eventually, these four characters must call upon the expertise of a history expert, Professor Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito), and New Orleans’s greatest living medium, Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), to rescue them; and even then they find themselves outmatched and well outnumbered in a race to prevent an old evil from imprisoning them forever and unleashing itself upon the world: Crump (Jared Leto).

They may yet have to call upon the most powerful of the mansion’s ghostly victims, the dread Madam Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis).

With special effects whipping the momentum of live action into a sequence of continual surprises to which the soundtrack resounds to perfection, the movie provides all the excitement you could ask for without endangering vulnerable hearts, and the twists and turns continue to the very end.

With a cast like this, you know you’re in for some fun.  The movie’s scariest scenes frighten children less than they do some adults, and the film’s many humorous moments are appreciable by young and old alike, so the movie is well-suited to thrill-seekers of all ages.  Its storyline probably won’t become a classic, but Haunted Mansion makes for a good deal of fun that several generations can share.

Screening at Palace, Dendy, Hoyts, and Limelight cinemas.

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