Film / The Haunted Mansion

"You try, you fail. You try, you fail. But the only true failure is when you stop trying."
Madame Leota

The Haunted Mansion is one of Disney's ventures in adapting their theme park attractions into movies. It was theatrically released in November 2003 and wasn't quite as successful at the box office as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which was also released in 2003.

Workaholic realtor Jim Evers (played by Eddie Murphy) and his family — wife Sara (Marsha Thomason), son Michael and daughter Megan — are invited to the old and haunted Gracey Manor outside of New Orleans. Things take a sinister turn when the family learns that the ghostly owner, Master Edward Gracey (Nathaniel Parker) and his butler Ramsley (Terence Stamp), both believe Sara to be the reincarnation of Gracey's long-lost fiance Elizabeth and that she will be the key to lifting the curse on the house that keeps the 999 souls from passing onto the next world. With the help of Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly) and a few ghostly servants, Jim and his kids must uncover the truth behind what really happened to Elizabeth, encountering the many ghosts of the graveyard, zombies, haunted suits of armor and the gates of Hell themselves opening.

The film is extremely polarizing. Fans of the ride hate its guts because it decides to focus on the antics of Eddie Murphy and de-emphasize some of the ride's more notable elements. Several critics also hate the film's guts for Eddie Murphy's childish antics. It earned a 13% approval rating amongst critics at Rotten Tomatoes. For good measure, the bulk of people outside the target demographic hate the film's guts. But the movie does have its fans, and kids seem to love the film, plus it's easier to make sense of whats going on if you DVD Skip everything between the opening credits and when the family arrives at the house.

The bright spots are the gorgeous set designs, ride-based Mythology Gags, and the soundtrack music, which pays a nice tribute to Buddy Baker and Grim Grinning Ghosts. Unfortunately, it was never independently released to the masses. What they released to the masses instead was The Haunted Mansion - Haunted Hits, which consisted of one soundtrack song, several horrifying remixes of 1980s pop horror songs by unknown artists, and an equally horrifying remix of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" by Barenaked Ladies. Only a few incredibly rare copies of the true soundtrack exist — they were used to submit it for a movie award nomination, they were auctioned for a final bidding price of $500, and they subsequently became highly sought-after memorabilia.

In 2010, Disney announced plans to take another whack at a Haunted Mansion movie, to be headed by Guillermo del Toro, though it has fallen into Development Hell between Guillermo's busy schedule and trying to get the right script. In 2015, it seems to have started taking additional steps forward, with the announcement of Ryan Gosling as the star.

The Haunted Mansion provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Big Bad: Ramsley the butler.
  • Bookends: The "Welcome, Foolish Mortals" and Madame Leota's "Be sure to bring your... death certificate" Stinger echo the ride.
  • The Butler Did It: Lampshaded by Jim, who even asks if it's a joke.
  • Car Fu: When Jim can't get back into the Mansion by normal means (the glass windows mending back just as he tries to break them), he takes his car and rams it through the piano room.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef / Foreign Queasine: What the butler serves the trespassing family.
  • Defanged Horrors: Including some serious Nightmare Fuel, like Eddie Murphy's face rotting in a mirror.
  • Dem Bones: Many of the zombies, to the point where it's downright gory.
  • Destination Defenestration: Ramsley can materialize enough to catch Jim in a Neck Lift, and then fly up before sending him through a window.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Everything between the credits and the Evers arriving at the house can be seen as painful to watch.
  • Disney Death: Sara gets one, dying but then coming back thanks to Elizabeth.
  • Disney Villain Death: Though he's already dead, Ramsley falls into Hell during the climax.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Ramsley in the climax, by some devilish fire snake coming from the fireplace. He almost drags Jim along with him, but the hero is saved by Edward.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the backstory, Edward hanged himself after he came to believe that his fiancée killed herself with poison rather than marry him. In truth, she'd been murdered by Ramsley.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: The ghosts are designed to look like they are covered with reflective glass beads.
  • Evil Plan: Ramsley wants to lift the curse, and though by this means everyone is freed he is remarkably callous to the other ghosts and will go to any means to succeed, even killing the homeowners.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Ramsley at the end, when he conjures the forces of Hell. It ultimately backfires.
  • Logo Joke: The castle is set against the foyer organ, before fading into the roof of the mansion.
  • Malevolent Architecture: The mansion is deliberately designed to look like a tomb, with cemetery-style statuary. It might have been nice once, but it got worse after becoming haunted.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Gracey was white and rich while his beloved was at least half-black and (presumably) poor, which Ramsley couldn't abide.
  • Monochrome Apparition: The ghosts are whitish-blue, as are many of the ghosts in the actual ride.
  • Mythology Gag: Tons of them. And even outside Mansion-based ones, the tiki bar Jim goes to towards the beginning is a nod to the Enchanted Tiki Room. The Enchanted Tiki Room which, at Disneyland, you must walk by to get to the Haunted Mansion ride.
  • Neck Lift: Ramsley can materialize enough to catch Jim this way, and then fly up before sending him through a window.
  • Never My Fault: Ramsley never acknowledges the fact that it was his own actions that cursed the 999 souls, instead choosing to blame it all on Edward's actions and turn all the ghosts on him.
  • Obviously Evil: Ramsley, very much so. He's an ugly old creeper with a stoic voice who's always lurking around in the shadows, with accompanying organ music and thunderclaps that only happen when he's around.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ramsley views himself as this. He believed that Elizabeth may have been after Gracey's money since she was poor. He decided to go ahead and kill her in order to "spare" his master from heartbreak. Whether or not he did this for his master or his own job is not specified.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Michael's fear of spiders. It becomes a serious stumbling block when his father and sister are stuck in a crypt with undead, the door out gets covered of spiders, and he's the only one who can open it.