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The Haunted Mansion

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
The Haunted Mansion
from Film Forum, 12/04/03

Gore Verbinski's film Pirates of the Caribbean silenced those critics who were afraid that movies based on amusement park rides would be a waste of time. But now The Haunted Mansion, directed by Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little), has fulfilled their original fears.

"It's too bad [the movie] wasn't visited by some ghostwriters," says Anne Navarro (Catholic News Service), "because then maybe the unimaginative fright flick could have scared up some spooky fun, or at least some well-placed audience laughs. The only clear thing in [this] mishmash of a story is that the writers had no idea where to go with it. Thrown in for good Disney measure is a halfhearted attempt at imparting a lesson that family comes first and standing up to one's fears takes guts. But it is such an afterthought that it loses its effect as quickly as the smoky ghosts evaporate."

"Minkoff integrated many aspects of the ethereal ride into his movie," says Michael Elliott (Movie Parables), "but wisely used them only as a backdrop for a fresh and imaginative tale. The ride may be decades old, but the movie just might make it seem new again. The production qualities are top notch. [It] evokes a creepy, spooky yet not too scary mood." He adds, "Of course, the concept of ghosts and zombies is something so unbiblical that there's little point in addressing it at length here. And yet, within this fantasy film, there are certain principles that do agree with scriptural truths."

While Elliott and Navarro think the film isn't scary enough, Jerry Langford (Movieguide) says, "The Disney execs must have sold their own souls to get a PG rating for The Haunted Mansion. The greatest abomination is that this movie is marketed to families and children. The heavy-handed occult worldview, along with the intensely scary scenes … make this a lousy ride for all."

Holly McClure (Crosswalk) argues, "This isn't a bad movie. It has a few entertaining moments, and Murphy was funny in several parts. But in a season that is known for spreading joy and holiday cheer, why would you want to scare your kids or give them images of ghouls and skeletons to dance in their heads? Go see Elf instead."

"Haunt some other holiday movie, this Mansion's no bargain," writes Steven Isaac (Plugged In). "It's entertaining, in a strictly mindless manner. It's visually stimulating, when it's not filling the screen with corpses. It's even endearing and sweet, albeit with a saccharine aftertaste. [But] Disney gives parents plenty of reasons not to haul the kiddos into the multiplex for this one (not the least of which are nightmare-inducing zombies, spooky ghouls, mild profanity and sexual references). It's the movie's flagrant misuse of the spiritual dimension, though, that put me off the most."

Similarly, mainstream critics are frowning as they file out of this haunted house.