For anyone who has been lucky enough to go to a Disney park, you will always have a ride you favour above all others. THE ride, the one that you sprint around the park when it's just opened to be first in line, the one that stays with you well after your trip has ended. My (and a huge number of other's) favourite is The Haunted Mansion. If you have never visited this Happy Haunt before, it's pretty hard to describe the journey you go through, descending to the depths of a house brimming with ghosts with eyes watching you from every crevice, gruesome paints and a LOT of backstory. Disney decided to capitalise on the surprise success of Pirates of the Caribbean with another movie based off a ride, but the two could not really be more different.
From the moment I started this challenge, I knew I was going to have to face The Haunted Mansion at some point, and I really didn't want to. The ride is especially special to me, and I had not heard great things about it's movie spin-off, and I hate to be negative but really, it's not a good film. The goods new is though that ANOTHER Haunted Mansion film is in the works, and I have complete faith that Disney will learn from their mistakes and create a spooky masterpiece on their second go.
The Haunted Mansion follows around a family of real estate agents, who get a mysterious call to to the Gracey residence under the guise of selling the mansion. What happens next is hard to explain, because it the film never really bothers to explain it. I would have thought that as something of a self-proclaimed Haunted Mansion expert, I would have a firm grasp on what was going on, but actually that only seemed to make my understanding of this film worse, because NOTHING is the same as the story for the ride. To realise how big of an error this is, you first need to go back to the ride's creation [insert floating dream cut here] (sorry).
If you thought movies could get stuck in Development Hell, this ride gives all of them a run for their money. The idea was first banded around before Disneyland was even built, and the ride was not actually open until after Walt Disney was dead. Every little bit of this attraction was scrutinised, reworked, argued about. People were fired, rehired, fired again and that was just on the engineering side. The concept of the backstory took years to complete, and it really gives the ride an aged, weary feel. The passion in this house facade is like no other.
This is what really stuck in my craw about this film, you would think that with such a rich plot, this film would have not needed to create an entirely new story all together, but that is what we ended up with. Not only that, but I assume it went through so many reworks to try and fix it, that it ends up making no sense, and it falls flat of anything remotely scary or thrilling. The cast don't know what they're in, the director doesn't know, certainly not the audience. You know when you play Kingdom Hearts and you're like "this is really enjoyable but what the fuck is going on?" the Haunted Mansion doesn't even have the "enjoyable" part down.
To give it it's credit, it looks fucking great. The set designs and props are so rich and wonderful that texturally there is nothing to complain about here. For a Haunted Mansion geek there's the wallpaper, the changing portraits, doors that knock by themselves and a whole host of other things you can spot in the background, but then it's all spoiled by seriously ropey looking CGI, which seems like a double insult since the ride has always been at the forefront of practical effects.
The whole film has a totally empty vibe, devoid of any sort of life, which is ironic really, but not really because the whole thing about the Haunted Mansion is that there are meant to be "999 Happy Haunts" inside it. This film is barren, choosing to concentrate on hardly any ghostly goings on and instead shoe-horning in a family drama and a love story instead. We truly do not know any of these characters, their wants and desires or really anything about them.
I think probably if I had seen this film before my Haunted Mansion obsession I thought have shrugged it off and forgot about it, but the injustice inside me is still bubbling. This ride deserves a good focus film that compliments it, takes it seriously and isn't afraid to spook you.
Terrence Stamp is obviously incredible in this,
Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.
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