Haunted Mansion review: Disney's joyless theme park ride film bores more than scares

The family film will be released on Friday, 11 August

Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish LaKeith Stanfield and Owen Wilson in Haunted Mansion (Disney)
  • 🎞️ When is Haunted Mansion in cinemas: 11 August, 2023

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 2/5

  • 🎭 Who's in it? LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Chase W. Dillon, Jared Leto

  • 👍 What we liked: The storyline around Stanfield's Ben has some heart to it and the actor is able to deliver some genuinely moving moments as his character grieves his late wife.

  • 👎 What we didn't: There is very little to laugh at, the scares are mediocre at best and the cast seemed to struggle with bringing the lacklustre script to life.

  • 📖 What's it about? When Gabbie and her son Travis move to a haunted mansion they decide to enlist the help of a ragtag group of paranormal experts to save the day.

In a world of reboots, remakes and re-imaginings, Disney is once again making a film based on one of its famous theme park rides, Haunted Mansion, 20 years after the release of the Eddie Murphy film of the same name.

Read more: Disney's theme park movies ranked from Haunted Mansion to Pirates of the Caribbean

This new take on the story follows an unlikely group of characters who come together when doctor Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase W. Dillon) move to New Orleans only to discover that their mansion is -you'll never guess it- being haunted by ghosts.

A still from the Haunted Mansion trailer. (Disney)
Rosario Dawson in Haunted Mansion (Disney)

In order to help get rid of them, recently widowed astrophysicist Ben Matthias (LaKeith Stanfield), priest Father Kent (Owen Wilson), psychic Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), and paranormal expert Bruce (Danny DeVito) team up to discover the dark secrets of the manor and how they can face the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto).

Haunted Mansion is squarely aimed at children, and while that is understandable given the studio behind the film it does mean that the film fails to deliver anything other than mediocre scares. It's light on the terror in order not to alienate younger viewers but it just proves to make the film a bit of a bore.

A still from the Haunted Mansion trailer. (Disney)
Jamie Lee Curtis in Haunted Mansion (Disney)

The stakes are low, the CGI poor, and the comedy is bland, Haddish delivers the most laughs as her sharp-witted medium but it's hard not to notice what little joy the rest of the cast seemed to have while making this film.

What other critics thought of Haunted Mansion:

The Guardian: Disney theme-park chiller is joyless Halloween merch (2-min read)

Total Film: Breathes new life into the classic Disney ride (2-min read)

Deadline: How The Live-Action Film Compares To The Disneyland Attraction (5-min read)

The Wrap: Disney’s Ride Comes Alive in Sweet Story of Grief (4-min read)

DeVito tries to give a high octane performance as Bruce but it doesn't really match the others, while Wilson, Dawson and even Jamie Lee Curtis deliver their lines with little enthusiasm. The script is lacklustre at best and so the film feels like a rather joyless viewing experience.

A still from the Haunted Mansion trailer. (Disney)
LaKeith Stanfield in Haunted Mansion (Disney)

That being said, Stanfield delivers a relatively emotional performance as Ben, who is consumed by his grief following the death of his wife Alyssa (Charity Jordan).

There are some moving moments featuring his character as he contemplates the loss, but the scenes are too few and far between to make much of an impact.

Haunted Mansion has little to give, while the cast can be enjoyable to watch it's not enough to stop viewers from feeling like this is something we've seen before, and done better.

Haunted Mansion will be released in cinemas on Friday, 11 August.

Watch: ‘Haunted Mansion’ director Justin Simien talks about making the movie ‘as Black as possible’