THE HAUNTED MANSION
The Haunted Mansion is directed by Rob Minkoff, a former Disney animator who co-directed The Lion King (1994) and then branched out as a live-action director with the popular childrens favourites Stuart Little (1999) and Stuart Little 2 (2002) and the subsequent The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) before returning to animation with and Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014). Alas, the idea of a Disney haunted house film proves fairly much anathema to anyone who is a horror fan. The film offers up a number of ghosts, some revived corpses and a few jolts on the soundtrack but nothing that could be called scary, certainly nothing that is even remotely threatening to the formula of Disney family fare. The scares on offer are down about the level of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? (1969-72). The film only ends up as a big haunted house comedy a slickly produced conveyor belt vehicle with numerous visual effects, an impressively designed mansion and a good deal of easy humour (but surprisingly little that is funny). Eddie Murphy goes through his usual routine but either he is sleepwalking in the part or else the script failed to provide him with any decent material or both, and it is a by-the-numbers performance for him.
The script is also entirely lightweight. It has clearly set out to incorporate the major elements from the theme park ride of the same name which originally opened in Disneyland in 1969 the antebellum mansion, the ghost-filled ballroom and dinnertable, the attic, the ghost graveyard, the busts that turn and look as people pass, the phantom carriage that is invaded by hitchhiking ghosts, the clock with thirteen hours, Madame Leota in the glass ball (who even gets to read out the rides final warning after the end credits have finished rolling), the barbershop quartet of singing busts. The major problem with the film is that the ride is only a series of spooky tableaux that was never designed with a coherent story in mind. The film has valiantly tried to throw all of this together with a plot that uses the ghost bride that appears in the ride as its basis. However, the very faithfulness to the various elements of the ride makes for an ungainly story. The film provides us with an explanation as to why the ghostly lord of the manor, his bride and butler are still lurking around but gives us no reason as to why the whole area is haunted by other ghosts, a mausoleum of zombies, living busts and a head in a crystal ball. Indeed, it is amusing at the end when the owner of the house finally goes to Heaven and so too do his servants, where the implication left is that class status extends beyond the mortal coil and retainers are forced to stay around tending their master into eternity.
Guillermo Del Toro has announced intentions to produce another version of The Haunted Mansion.
(Nominee for Best Production Design at this sites Best of 2003 Awards).