If you’re a fan of the ride or the 2003 Disney movie The Haunted Mansion, the new Haunted Mansion movie is one that is most likely on your must-see list this summer. Billed as a fantasy comedy like the previous attempt to bring the fan-favorite ride to the big screen, the new version stands on its own two feet but is greeting audiences with a PG-13 rating, compared to the previous movie. But is that rating something that audiences should worry about when taking their kids to see the show or is it possibly an overreaction to the topics covered in film?
Obviously named and themed after the amusement park ride, Haunted Mansion takes audiences to New Orleans where the dead are just as much alive as the people who live there. Ben, who has loved and lost in the town, leads ghost tours for tourists but doesn’t believe in ghosts at all. That is until he’s invited to photograph ghosts in a house outside of the city for quick cash. But what he doesn’t realize is that once he crosses the threshold, the house will have a unique hold over him. With the homeowner, a priest, a medium, and a historian – they must work together to try to get out of the house and not become the next victim of it.
The movie does a great job of reimagining a lot of the parts of the ride that fans will appreciate. From the stretching walls and alligators, the moving paintings, the hitchhiking ghosts, the hat box ghost, and of course Madam Leota. There is even a moving chair scene that is similar to the doom buggies that you ride at the park. Subtle nods to what fans will be looking for, and bits of the ride that we all love every time we ride it at Disneyland or Walt Disney World.
But why is the movie PG-13? The movie is billed as a fantasy/comedy like the previous version. But it’s not a cheesy comedy like the Eddie Murphy version. Yes, there are laughs throughout the movie, but let’s be frank – the movie and ride all look at a bit of a lighter side of death. The house and the Hatbox Ghost has claimed 999 souls and is looking for the 1000th to complete his collection and increase his power. Trapped in the home are all of these ghosts, unable to rest because of their death related to the home, and are unable to move on.
So if we look at the dark side of the story, not just looking at it as a movie based on a theme park ride, it’s a lot of talk about death. There is talk about murder, suicide, depression, and a lot of heavier topics. There is a discussion of different deaths and even a scene where a duel by gunfire is played out between the ghosts. There’s talk of souls and their collection, and what actually happens after someone dies. Is this scary? No, it’s reality and part of life. But it may not be topics that you want younger viewers to watch on the screen for two hours, no matter how much they love the ride when you go to Disney.
Yes, the ride is a cheesier look at the afterlife – but this puts it more squarely in reality and it isn’t as sugar coated.
Haunted Mansion isn’t particularly scary. Again, there are talks of death and ghosts and all that comes with it. But it isn’t a movie filled with blood, gore, or jump scares. It’s more of a serious look at what happens after death with some laughs along the way. That being said, for younger audiences, the ghosts could be scary. There are some more intense situations, but they seem to be bookended between laughs and really heartfelt moments as well. Remember it’s not being billed as a horror movie, but there are ghosts and death involved so for some viewers it might be a bit much.
At the heart of it, the movie seems to have taken the base story of the ride and given it a bit of a grown-up approach to the story. It adds in the beauty and complexity that New Orleans has with life and death and adds to the story popularized by a ride. It seems to balance both well and adds a different look at what life after death means to people on both sides of the veil.
Foolish Mortals and experience Haunted Mansion in theaters everywhere July 28th.
About Haunted Mansion:
Inspired by the classic theme park attraction, “Haunted Mansion” is about a woman and her son who enlist a motley crew of so-called spiritual experts to help rid their home of supernatural squatters. Starring LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Chase W. Dillon, Dan Levy, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Jared Leto as The Hatbox Ghost.