Premiering in July as another attempt to create a franchise from a Disney parks ride, Haunted Mansion brought new characters into New Orleans to defeat and ancient evil and free hundreds of ghosts. Though not striking better reviews until its streaming release in October, there might be some positives to this new rendition of the 2003 Eddie Murphy original. Check out our Haunted Mansion 2023 review, and see if you agree with our final thoughts about the horror comedy.
Where to Stream Haunted Mansion
You can stream both the original The Haunted Mansion from 2003 and the Haunted Mansion 2023 version on Disney+ with a subscription. And if you enjoy the ambience within the 2023 movie, Disney+ also offers two ambient sounds titled Enter If You Dare and Swinging Wake. You can put these on your TV and let the Halloween spirit flow over you.
Disney+ offers several other Halloween themed movies too, perfect for a scary movie binge.
Haunted Mansion 2023 Review: Breaking Down Plot, Setting, Characters
An Ancient Evil
William Gracey’s ghost appears in both movies, but for very different reasons. While both Gracey’s were devastated by the loss of their wife, William Gracey in the 2023 film goes to great lengths to talk to her again. By bringing in medium Madame Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis), he tries again and again to speak to his wife, to no avail. Instead, he releases an ancient powerful spirit by the name of Alistair Crump (aka the Hatbox Ghost), who persuades Gracey to take his own life along with hundreds of other victims in a pursuit to escape the mansion’s prison.
Newest owners Gabbie (Dawson) and her son Travis soon become haunted by the ghosts, and enlist the help of Ben (Stanfield), Father Kent (Wilson), Harriet (Haddish), and Professor Bruce Davis (DeVito) in order to find the ghosts and figure out how to finally release them from the mansion.
I enjoyed this storyline more than the original Haunted Mansion because I felt there was more depth to the story, and the mystery seemed more engrained into the story than a real estate agent stumbling onto a creepy home. There is serious peril for the 2023 characters as they fight for their lives, while the real estate’s agents family are fighting too, they did not seem as close to death.
The only critique I had with the plot line was the beginning of the movie, as it wasn’t clear when the flashbacks were, and what time was actually the present. Once the movie got farther in I realized they were flashbacks and Ben was not the same character as Travis, but it took probably ten to fifteen minutes for my confusion to clear.
New Orleans in a Spiritual Light
The movie starts in bustling New Orleans, and slowly shows the viewers what lurks behind the scenes. Though we only get snapshots of the city, New Orleans looks picturesque with its jam-packed streets and rich ghost lore. The setting starts to take a better turn when we see the haunted mansion for the first time. Imposing, worn, and set in a fog-covered forest, there is no better place for the building.
Each room had its own quirks, and the moving paintings really set in stone the feeling that the whole house was alive, in more ways than one. There were a couple of CGI moments that could have been better, for instance when one of the rooms stretches upwards with an alligator pit at the bottom, but for the most part we got to see both the living and spirit world in rich, dark colors.
Atmosphere is a huge part to horror movies, and I think that Haunted Mansion did well conveying the spookiness of the mansion, as well as the ghost-infested graveyards, and the feeling that something was off in Stanfield’s character’s house. If they had tried to do too much more with the scenes, the house would have looked fake and unrealistic.
Trying to Find Their Place in the World
With several well-known actors making up the cast of Haunted Mansion, the character development was quite intriguing throughout the whole movie. Jamie Lee Curtis, Owen Wilson, LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, and Danny DeVito each played a different role in helping set free the ghosts in the mansion and their unique pasts made them qualified in different ways.
I think that is what really helped the diversity of the movie, since each character had their own pasts and desires within the mansion. For instance, all DeVito’s character wanted was to just get into the mansion, while Stanfield’s character just wanted some extra cash from “taking” ghost pictures as he struggled with crippling grief. Even Wilson’s character was trying to find his place, since he really wasn’t a priest at all just a costume worker.
Each character’s personality also added to the comedic timing present throughout the movie, and made the characters feel more natural as they tried to solve the mystery of the mansion. My favorite character would have to be Stanfield’s though, because he was so consumed with grief it took something literally beyond this world to pull him out of his funk and find solace with his new friends – alive and dead. His character felt the most genuine to me, and I’m curious to see if that translates into his other movies.
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Will There Be a Sequel?
There have been no confirmations yet for a Haunted Mansion sequel, and may be more difficult to green-light one after the initial reviews of the movie. When the movie premiered in July, it was met with poor reviews from critics and a box-office flop, but this could have been due to the release date itself. Often movies that are themed during a particular season or holiday will not do as well when placed outside of that timeline. This is especially true for Haunted Mansion which was met with better reviews once the movie hit streaming platform Disney+ in October, a month more aligned to the haunted nature of the film.
We will have to wait and see if there is a potential franchise in the Haunted Mansion films, or if they really are just a one-and-done type of movie.
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How Does It Compare to the 2003 The Haunted Mansion?
Compared to the 2003 film starring Eddie Murphy, the 2023 film is scarier than the original film and takes a different route than the original, connecting complete strangers to one haunted mansion who must find a way to break the curse.
The 2003 film received poor reviews from both the critics and audience in Rotten Tomatoes, earning a 13% and a 31%, respectively. Though the original was fun to watch, it didn’t land particularly well in the scare category or the special affects, though it was only 2003 when the movie was filmed.
The 2023 film on the other hand received higher scores in both categories with a 37% critics score and a 84% audience score. I felt like the characters were more in-depth than the 2003 film, and it was really interesting to watch a group of strangers with different “powers” get smashed together to find a way to stop an ancient evil. There were a lot of moments that revealed the complexities of the characters, and some of the jump scares were quite scary compared to the 2003 version, which did not have as many terrifying elements.
All in all, I think the 2023 Haunted Mansion was more of a hit than the 2003 film, and it explored the mansion in more depth. I was properly frightened during the jump-scares and several scenes were quite funny. I loved the characters from different backgrounds coming together, and how integral the ghosts were in not only keeping the living in the mansion, but helping when Crump needed to be taken down. Though there are mixed reviews from critics, the majority of audience members enjoyed watching this movie.
It would be interesting to see a sequel of this film and see where they go – specifically if they follow the same characters or only keep the mansion as the constant. I would side more with the characters, and maybe have them figure out other haunted buildings, or at least appear in some capacity.
In conclusion, if you like horror comedies, I would recommend watching this movie especially during spooky season. It’s a great movie for teens and adults, and really encapsulates the spirit of Halloween as well as the literal spirits that so many people believe are real.