Haunted Mansion Makes You Laugh, Shriek, and cry

Haunted Mansion poster image of Travis (Chase W. Dillon), Gabbie (Rosario Dawson), Father Kent (Owen Wilson), Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), and Bruce (Danny DeVito).

Haunted Mansion is another surprise filled with tons of comedic moments and a sprinkle of impactful, heartfelt ones. It’s fun for audiences to enjoy—popcorn fare. After Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son, Travis (Chase W. Dillon), walk into their new and creepy home, only to beeline for the exit after ghosts make their presence known, they recruit help from others. This brings an unforeseen ragtag community together to fight the evil within the house. Amidst the laughter and emotional moments, Haunted Mansion still makes time for some scares that catch you off guard. 

Directed by Justin Simien and written by Katie Dippold, the film addresses the joke about Black people and haunted houses. It’s known that a movie would never last that long, and Eddie Murphy said it best in his comedy special. You walk in and right back out. But what happens if that’s not the end of the haunting, and it sticks to you even after you leave, even escalates? That’s where Gabbie and Travis find themselves after the spirits in their New Orleans home latches onto them, stuck in the house to avoid even worse hauntings.

Haunted Mansion Is Surprisingly Funny From Unexpected Characters

The entire cast performs well. Some of them do outshine others. Particularly, LaKeith Stanfield and Rosario Dawson’s star power dim next to many of their other castmates. For LaKeith as Ben Matthias, though he nails the emotional scenes and some comedic scenes, others fall flat. Scenes that require him to react to something that isn’t there, like ghosts, find him faltering. On the other hand, Rosario Dawson did not receive the range for her character. Her sole role of “mom” eclipses all else. She doesn’t get many scenes to show anything else. But when allowed, Rosario does deliver. 

Haunted Mansion poster image of Travis (Chase W. Dillon), Gabbie (Rosario Dawson), Father Kent (Owen Wilson), Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), and Bruce (Danny DeVito).
Haunted Mansion still. Courtesy of Disney.

Standouts include Chase W. Dillon, Danny DeVito, and Owen Wilson. Chase makes Travis more than a kid navigating a haunted house with his mom. His delivery makes you laugh or hurt for him. He deserves more roles to demonstrate his talent. Danny DeVito as Bruce, the professor obsessed with the supernatural, mixes adorable with lots of laughs. Owen Wilson as Father Kent surprised me the most. Usually, I do not find him funny in films, but his timing here is perfect. Tiffany Haddish has points of humor, too, but other times she misses the mark. Some other casting choices offered unforeseen laughs, particularly the tour guide. Priceless. 

A Comedic Tale Exploring Grief With Some Chilling Moments

Loss and grief can sap your energy, making it impossible to do even mundane tasks. For LaKeith Stanfield’s character, Ben, that grief has a current of hope underneath. He continues New Orleans ghost tours despite his adamance that ghosts do not exist because he hopes to reconnect with his love. Grief can be harmful if it runs rampant, especially when people forget to live. Haunted Mansion has beautiful moments that remind you of stories people share about synchronistic events they experience after losing a loved one, which helps them through the pain. 

The movie is not all laughs and loss either—some genuinely terrifying occasions with mirrors and ghosts lurking in the background cause shivers up your spine. For a moment, I thought the film switched to Insidious or Haunting of Hill House. So, expect to either scream or warn the character on occasion. 

Haunted Mansion is fun for audiences of all ages, with meaningful themes included. Besides some jokes that did not work and an attempted pairing that did not work because there was no chemistry, I loved it. You’ll laugh at unexpected moments in Haunted Mansion and shrink back in your chair at others. 

*This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

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