Haunted Mansion (2023) Parent Guide
For a movie that tries to be scary, this flick is surprisingly lifeless.
Parent Movie Review
On New Year’s Eve, Ben Matthias (LaKeith Stanfield), an astrophysicist with a promising career, bumps into Alyssa (Charity Jordan), a vivacious young woman who leads ghost tours in New Orleans. Romance kindles between the two, but soon we see Ben, drunk and disheveled, living alone in a decrepit little house. He now has a job leading historical tours through the city, but there’s a mysterious camera tucked away in a box at home that partially explains the change in his circumstances.
Returning to Louisiana for a fresh start, Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase Dillon) drive up to the house she purchased online. The physician hopes to turn the mansion into a bed and breakfast but soon discovers that the house is haunted. Aggressively haunted. If she and Travis are going to have a safe place to live, they’ll need some help.
After Father Kent (Owen Wilson) fails to exorcise the ghosts, he suggests that Gabbie turn to an expert – and he goes in search of Ben and his specially designed ghost-scanning camera. With a house so burdened with spirits even technology isn’t going to be enough. Soon a history professor (Danny DeVito) and a medium (Tiffany Haddish) are recruited to uncover the horrors of the house’s past. All of them must work together to rid the building of the powerful specter who terrifies all the ghosts – and only needs one more soul to make his dominion everlasting…
Let me begin by saying that I do not object to Disney using its theme park rides as fodder for movies. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, for instance, offers entertaining films that expand the world of the beloved ride. This film, however, is an unmitigated disaster. It lacks the madcap excitement of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, featuring instead two agonizingly long hours of boring ghosts, ineffective jump scares, and product placements. I noted mentions of Burger King, Costco, Amazon, Baskin & Robbins, and Yankee Candles in the script and was annoyed each time. When I’ve paid good money for a ticket, I don’t want to have Disney slip mini-ads into the film script. (It’s not as if the studio needs the money.) Whether or not that bugs you as much as it irks me is an open question, but, don’t worry, there’s plenty here to dislike.
Ironically, for a tale that bounces between mortality and the afterlife, this movie feels strangely lifeless. The cast are doing their best – LaKeith Stanfield’s puppy dog eyes get a real workout as he emotes with grieving sincerity – but the story is hollow. As one predictable jump scare after another popped up on screen, and one shrieking ghost followed another, I just felt bored and surprisingly sleepy. It’s not just me, either – the screening I attended was very quiet, with little in the way of laughter or stifled screams. For a comic ghost story, this is a very bad sign.
Parents with a passion for ghost stories should take note of the PG-13 rating: this is not a film for six year-olds. Although the violence isn’t bloody, there are multiple scenes of supernatural violence, including physical attacks, use of weapons, and attempted poisonings. Characters discuss murder and suicide and mention a character who practices dark magic and blood sacrifice. Religious parents should also note the frequent séances where the medium summons the spirits of the dead and one séance in which a character’s soul leaves his body and wanders around the house.
As scary ghost stories go, this isn’t too gory, but it isn’t exciting either. In fact, I think Disney has misfired with this flick. After sitting through the movie, I feel far less motivated to wait in line for the Haunted Mansion on my next trip to a Disney theme park. The movie has taken the shine off the ride for me. I can guarantee that’s the kind of reaction that’s going to send a shiver through the Mouse House.Directed by Justin Simien. Starring LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson. Running time: 122 minutes. Theatrical release July 28, 2023. Updated July 27, 2023
Watch the trailer for Haunted Mansion (2023)
Haunted Mansion (2023)
Rating & Content Info
Why is Haunted Mansion (2023) rated PG-13? Haunted Mansion (2023) is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some thematic elements and scary action.
Violence: There are frequent scenes of supernatural violence. People are chased by ghosts and attacked with a hatchet. There is an attempted assault with a candlestick. Characters are trapped in a room with alligators snapping at them as they try to escape. There are scenes of possession. A possessed character tries to poison his friends. A man has a heart attack. A home experiences a flood caused by supernatural forces. A man is hit by a bus (off-screen) and is shown in hospital with no visible injuries. There’s mention of a fatal car accident in which a person dies and another in which a dog is killed. Someone tells a historical story of a person being beheaded: the murder is depicted in animated silhouettes. A woman in the same era is reputed to have decapitated five husbands with a hatchet. An evil character apparently had a past that involved dark magic and blood sacrifice. A child sees his dead mother in her casket and is purportedly punished for weeping. Suicide is mentioned. A dead man is seen holding a bottle of poison. Objects are tossed around rooms by invisible ghosts. Two ghosts shoot at each other in a duel and hit another character.
Sexual Content: There’s mention of a man’s mistress.
Profanity: The script contains a handful of terms of deity and a minor profanity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults consume alcohol in social situations. A main character gets drunk and is shown hungover.
Page last updated July 27, 2023
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If you’re looking for a scary movie for kids that has better writing and editing, you can try The House with a Clock in its Walls. Described as “gothic horror” for kids, this movie manages to be both scary and funny. And it stars Jack Black, which is a plus.
If it’s ghost movies you’re after, you can try Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Darby and the Dead has an even lighter touch with its tale of a teen who helps ghosts pass over to the other side.