Geek Review: Haunted Mansion

Around the turn of the century, and before they started turning their animated films into live-action productions, Disney had an early idea to turn some of their popular theme park rides into movies. There was The Country Bears (2002) based on the Country Bear Jamboree, the massively popular Pirates of the Caribbean (2003 – 2017) franchise from, you guessed it, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and The Haunted Mansion (2003), based on the attraction of the same name. 

Led by comedian Eddie Murphy, The Haunted Mansion was greatly overshadowed by the charms of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his crew of pirates. Still, the film performed decently at the box office. This explains why the studio is giving the spooky theme park ride a reboot after two decades, allowing Disney’s Haunted Mansion to shine again.

Starring LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Judas and the Black Messiah) as Ben, an astrophysicist and ghost tour guide, who, believe it or not, does not believe in ghosts, and Rosario Dawson (The Mandalorian, Rent) as widow Gabbie and mother of nine-year-old Travis (Chase Dillion), the trio find themselves having to rid Gabbie’s newly purchased mansion of 999 spirits who now call it their home. 

Their lack of success prompts the playful spirits to haunt more people connected with the mansion, including Father Kent (Owen Wilson, Loki), who is simply terrible at exorcisms, as well as medium Harriet (Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip) and historian Bruce (Danny DeVito, Matilda). In an attempt to stop the hauntings once and for all, Gabbie, Travis, Ben, Father Kent, Harriet and Bruce form a plan and call themselves the ‘Dream Team’.

The ‘Dream Team’ is an apt name because Haunted Mansion’s strongest factor is its cast. Stanfield’s character Ben struggles with grief and his journey in Haunted Mansion transforms him from an angry and sarcastic bloke to a father figure to Travis – a transformation Stanfield shows with such ease. The actor is so natural in the role, that you might start to believe that Stanfield is much like Ben. Haddish is funny as the over-the-top medium and DeVito surprisingly brings a big chunk of humour as an elderly historian.

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The standouts are Wilson as Father Kent and Dillion as Travis. Wilson’s Father Kent may be a supporting character, but his playfulness and trickery make him a favourite. Father Kent is not what one might expect from a Priest, and the stark contrast from our preconceived notions of such a position makes him an intriguing character too. Dillion is impressive for a child actor. Being able to stand out despite being surrounded by established actors like Dawson, Stanfield, Wilson – heck, even Danny DeVito himself! – is no easy feat. Dillion delivers on his one-liner comedic lines, and while we wish he would just run a little bit faster in certain scenes, the kid has great potential. 

Unfortunately, out of all the cast and characters, we wish we saw Dawson’s Gabbie grow as an individual. Dawson’s Gabbie is likeable, and while the character had some funny moments, she fades into the background as the mother character. Also, get her a better wig. That’s perhaps the biggest scare, putting Dawson in a plastic-looking wig. 

haunted mansion

One thing we greatly appreciate about Haunted Mansion is that viewers get to know the characters introduced closely. Most movies with such a large ensemble cast fail to make each character personal and relatable to the viewer. Every supporting character in Haunted Mansion has moments of weakness, strength and growth, and by the end of the movie, viewers can believe that this odd bunch have formed a family of their own. Fast and Furious-style family meal at the end of the movie, included. 

Haunted Mansion will be enjoyed by fans of the Disney attraction and young tweens. The movie is packed with references and easter eggs to the original ride. Fan favourite ghosts like the bride, caretaker and opera singer don’t just make mere cameos as they are weaved into the story. Fans will also be thrilled to see Leto’s Hatbox Ghost – a character beloved in the Disney lore and ride – and Jamie Lee Curtis as the medium Madam Leota. There are many other elements of the ride incorporated into the movie, but we’ll let you experience it yourself rather than spoil it for you. 

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Haunted Mansion is rated PG-13 and the movie does skew younger. The horror in Haunted Mansion isn’t intense or gory, but leans towards creepy. The visual effects on the ghosts in this movie are amazing too. Nothing that will keep a 20-year-old up, but will most definitely give a six-year-old nightmares. Essentially, Haunted Mansion may be too scary for kids eight and under but is scary enough for tweens aged nine to 13 without leaving them traumatised. Haunted Mansion is a family-horror movie so if you’re an adult looking for a good scare, then Talk to Me is your best bet. 

In all, Haunted Mansion is enjoyable and packs a good amount of scares for children and their parents to watch together. Adult viewers who are fans of Disney Parks may also have a fondness for Haunted Mansion. The star-studded cast is the main pull to get a ticket to the movie, and the rest is for viewers to just sit back and enjoy the ride.



Haunted Mansion is the perfect tween scary movie for a family day out and a great homage to the original attraction loved by adults.

  • Story - 6/10
  • Direction - 6/10
  • Characterisation - 6/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 6/10