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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 2, 2023



‘HAUNTED MANSION’ is the second movie based on the spooky Disneyland theme park attraction. 

The first one was made exactly 20 years ago in 2003 starring Eddie Murphy.

It did well so it’s not surprising that they’re now doing a reboot. 

The new movie starts with the first meeting of Ben (Lakeith Stanfield, Oscar best supporting actor nominee for “Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Alyssa (Charity Jordan.) 

Ben is a dynamic  astrophysicist who has invented a camera that can take pictures of paranormal things, like ghosts. 

In the next scene, he looks so depressed and is now working as a lazy tour guide for haunted places in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

It will only be much later when we are told what happened to Alyssa and why he suddenly chose to change careers.  

We then see Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her 9-year old son, Travis (Chase Dillon) moving into an old mansion called Gracey Manor, with the intention of turning it into an Air B&B. 

But it turns out to be inhabited by many ghosts, so they quickly run away.

Ben gets a visit from a priest, Father Kent (Owen Wilson), who pays him big for him to use his camera in taking pictures of the ghosts in Gracey Manor. 

He is hesitant at first and just fakes taking pictures of ghosts. 

But when he returns home, he finds out that a ghost has followed him and this forces him to return to the mansion. 

This is the reason why Gabbie and son returned to the mansion. 

They’ve tried to escape but they’re haunted by the ghosts wherever they go, so might as well just stay there and try to find a way how to make the ghosts go away.

Ben, along with Gabbie and Father Kent, are able to recruit Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), a medium, and Prof. Bruce Davis (Danny Devito), a historian who knows a lot about the haunted mansion, to help them drive away the restless spirits in Gracey Manor. 

They are told to seek the help of Madame Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis in her first film after winning the Oscar), a much older psychic who turns out to be trapped inside a crystal ball who says that the mansion is now under the control of an evil entity called the Hatbox Ghost (voice by Jared Leto.) 

The ghost lived before as Alistair Crump, a rich man who was beheaded by his own abused servants and now wants to collect the souls of people and imprison them all inside the 


It’s now up to the group to fight back before the ghost can get the soul of Ben, who is pining for his dead wife. 

How they do this, and also help Travis, who is also grieving from the untimely death of his own father, is shown in the thrilling climax of the movie. 

There have been many films made by Disney based on their own theme park attractions, like “Tower of Terror” (based on a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode), “Jungle Cruise”, “Tomorrow Land” and “Mission to Mars”. The biggest hit, of course, is “Pirates of the Carribean”, which became a franchise.

The first “Haunted Mansion” movie was torn to shred by critics but it went on the become a blockbuster. 

Now comes the new version and we don’t know yet if it’s be as a big a hit as the first one since many big offerings in the current U.S. summer didn’t meet box office expectations, notably, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and the latest editions of “Transformers” and “Mission Impossible”. 

Even “Insidious: The Red Door” was only so-so in the U.S. tills but a megahit in the Philippines.

“Haunted Mansion” is quite an amusing combination of comedy and horror directed by Justin Simien, best known for his debut film, “Dear White People”, that was later turned into a Netflix TV series. 

The movie deftly juggles the scary scenes with hilarious ones, and adds the emotional element of some of its characters grieving for their dear departed loved ones.

The film’s production design delivers impressive visuals, with the house having walls, ceilings and corridors that transform in a jiffy, plus hidden rooms and paintings that move, inhabited by spirits for added Gothic touches.

But its main asset is the fine ensemble performance of the whole cast who take the roles quite seriously. 

Haddish, DeVito and Lee Curtis go for broad comedy and big laughs while Stanfield, Dawson and Dillon spice up their portrayals with a touch of honest emotion that gives the movie some heart, specially Stanfield who gets to deliver an aria about the gravity of his grief while mourning for the tragic loss of his wife.