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Review: The Haunted Mansion

If you like the ride, you'll like the movie

I'll confess that, by and large, I don't much care for the Disney World amusement park. Never have. Too hot, too crowded, too expensive, and the rides and attractions never did much for me ... with one major exception. The Haunted Mansion. I could spend all day on that ride. With the pre-ride creepy show where the lights suddenly go out, and the scary organ music as you ride along a conveyor through a cobwebbed mansion, and the green, ghostly apparitions popping up everywhere you turn. I love it. Sure, the effects are a little dated now, but that's what makes it awesome. It's hokum and horror, blended to perfection.


Well, I'm pleased to say that Disney's new Haunted Mansion movie hits that vibe with pitch perfection. The underlying plot line is utterly ridiculous. Ben, a skeptical astrophysicist is down-and-out, leading ghost tours in New Orleans. But when a priest (we're never told if he's Catholic or Episcopalian), Father Kent, barges into Ben's home, Ben is thrust into a circle of people who find themselves haunted--perpetually--by a house chocked full of ghosts. The house's owner is a recently relocated single mother doctor, Gabbie, who, along with her nine-year-old son, Travis, are trying desperately to figure out what it is these ghosts want (other than to constantly scare them). For it seems that anyone who crosses the threshold of their mansion is doomed to be haunted, at all times, no matter where they flee to.


The circle of threshold-crossing, ghost-plagued people expands as the movie goes on to include Harriet the psychic and a completely preposterous Danny DeVito playing a professor of local history. As the story unfolds, we learn of the house's past, a secret, supernatural plot, and a whole heap of character backstory, all of which sort of, kind of coheres into an articulable plot. There's just enough of a story to justify a movie. And the actors play their roles just seriously enough to make that story work without losing sight of the fact that this is a fun movie.


It's fun from start to finish.  


The scares are plentiful and carefully crafted to hit the precise level of creepy corniness that makes the Haunted Mansion ride such a delight. Go into the movie with the same level of expectation you'd have going into the ride and you won't be disappointed.


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