In a world where haunted houses have been a staple of horror cinema for decades, Justin Simien’s take on the classic tale in Haunted Mansion attempts to bring a fresh perspective to the genre. Unfortunately, while it displays glimmers of creativity and solid performances, the film ultimately falls short of fully capitalizing on its potential. Haunted Mansion struggles to strike the right balance between horror, comedy, and storytelling, leaving audiences feeling somewhat underwhelmed and longing for more.
From the very start, Haunted Mansion draws you into its world with its eerie atmosphere and visually arresting scenes. The set designs are hauntingly beautiful, capturing the essence of a decaying mansion filled with ghosts and secrets. The use of dim lighting and shadows adds to the suspense, making every creak and rustle of fabric feel like a spectral presence lurking in the background. Simien’s keen eye for detail shines through in these aspects, and he successfully delivers an authentically spooky ambiance.
The cast of Haunted Mansion is undoubtedly one of its strong points. The talented ensemble is headlined by a charismatic lead performance from LaKeith Stanfield, bringing a much-needed gravitas to the film. The supporting cast also adds depth to the story with their respective portrayals of quirky and haunted characters. It was genuinely kind of amazing to see Danny DeVito in this movie, along with the wildly talented Jamie Lee Curtis and Winona Ryder.
However, the film’s Achilles heel lies in its uneven character development. While some characters receive the attention they deserve, others seem underwritten and one-dimensional, leaving audiences disengaged and unconvinced of their significance to the plot. The lack of proper character arcs and exploration of their backstories hinders the audience’s emotional investment in the unfolding events, making it challenging to feel genuinely attached to the fate of the characters.
One of the most perplexing aspects of Haunted Mansion is its uncertain identity. The film struggles to find a cohesive balance between horror and comedy, resulting in a tonal inconsistency that is jarring at times. While there are moments of genuine terror that send shivers down your spine, they are often quickly undercut by forced comedic relief that undermines the suspense built up until that point. Obviously this movie was never going to lean into full-on horror, but it still struggles with an identity problem that’s hard to shake off.
At times, the humor feels out of place and cringe-worthy, relying on tired tropes and slapstick antics that fall flat. Had the film embraced its darker elements and stuck to a more serious tone throughout, it could have potentially created a more haunting and memorable experience.
The heart of any good haunted house story lies in the unraveling of its mysteries. Haunted Mansion sets up some intriguing plotlines, promising to delve into the history of the ghosts and the secrets that tie them to the mansion. Regrettably, the film fails to deliver on these promises, leaving significant plot holes and unanswered questions. It feels like the screenplay struggles to tie up loose ends, leaving audiences unsatisfied and wanting more closure.
The pacing of the film also plays a part in its overall disappointment. At times, the narrative drags, making the 90-minute runtime feel much longer. Conversely, some plot points are rushed, robbing the film of its potential for genuine scares and character development. A more balanced and thoughtfully constructed storyline could have allowed the movie to unfold more naturally and have a more profound impact on its audience.
Haunted Mansion, directed by Justin Simien, attempts to breathe new life into the haunted house genre, but ultimately fails to live up to its potential. Despite stunning visuals, a talented cast, and an eerie atmosphere, the film stumbles due to uneven character development, a lack of clear identity, unresolved mysteries, and pacing issues. While it may hold some appeal for fans of haunted house stories and spooky settings, it ultimately falls short of being a standout film in the genre. Haunted Mansion becomes a forgettable ghostly misstep that lacks the staying power to leave a lasting impression.
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8.5/108.5/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 4/104/10
- Setting/Theme - 5/105/10
- Watchability - 6/106/10
- Rewatchability - 4/104/10