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:

  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Michael's fear of spiders. It's established when we first see him, comes up again briefly when the family first arrives at the mansion, then it comes up again at the end of the mausoleum scene, where, after retrieving the key, Jim and Megan get trapped inside when the door slams shut, leaving Michael outside with spiders crawling all over the door. He eventually braves himself and opens it to save Jim and Megan.
  • 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.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Ramsley is introduced this way. Though we first hear his voice over the phone speaking to Sara, he emerges from a dark corridor amidst flashes of lightning soon after the Evers family first arrive at the mansion.
  • 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.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Ramsley is dragged off to Hell at the end. He tries to bring Jim with him for having exposed his plan to Gracey, but Gracey saves him.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The Evers family, which has two males (Jim and Michael) and two females (Sara and Megan).
  • Ghost Butler: Ramsley, once it's revealed that the mansion is cursed.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Ramsley at the end, when he conjures the forces of Hell. It ultimately backfires.
  • Haunted House: Gracey Manor is this for most of the film, thanks to the curse that left everyone inside it as ghosts. It's part of the title, of course.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Ramsley when he murders Elizabeth, figuring that it would stop Gracey from throwing away his home and heritage.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jim. Sara really doesn't like how he puts work first in his life, which makes him neglect almost everything else, but that doesn't mean he doesn't care. He definitely loves his family, and goes all Papa Wolf when they are threatened.
  • Kick the Dog: Ramsley murdered Elizabeth, insults Jim behind his back, locks Michael and Megan in a trunk, throws Jim out of the mansion, and threatens Michael and Megan if Sara doesn't go along with his plan.
  • Large Ham: Jim. Being played by Eddie Murphy, it was expected.
  • Logo Joke: The castle is set against the foyer organ, before fading into the roof of the mansion.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Ramsley believes this was the case when Gracey fell in love with Elizabeth, because Gracey had everything in the world and was willing to throw it all away for love.
  • 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.
  • My Grandson Myself: Gracey attempts to pass himself off as his own grandson when he tells Elizabeth's story to Sara, making it appear as though his grandfather, rather than him, was in love with Elizabeth.
  • 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.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: One can be heard during Ramsley's introduction, and other times when he's around to highlight his darkness.
  • Only One Name: Ramsley is obviously the character's surname,
  • Oracular Head: Madame Leota, as in the ride. In order to keep Jennifer Tilly's head perfectly still, she had to be bolted into a device like a surgical halo.
  • Papa Wolf: Jim is willing to fight his way through a corridor of animated suits of armor to get to Michael and Megan, who at that point have been trapped in a trunk.
  • Parental Substitute: It's implied that Ramsley was this to Gracey.
  • Politically Correct History: Zig-Zagged, the hauntings start because Ramsley killed Gracey's black fiancée to prevent a scandal. However, they never explicitly say Ramsley disapproved of her race, only that she and Gracey were from "different worlds".
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: When trapped in the wall passage, Jim looks through one of these into an upstairs corridor of the mansion, before exiting the passage through the painting.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Megan's "Oh. My God." when she first sees the Gracey cemetery upon arriving at Gracey Manor.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Madame Leota speaks this way, as in the ride. At least half her lines rhyme with each other.
  • Rousing Speech: Madame Leota gives one to Jim to give him the confidence to get him back inside the mansion.
  • 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 in spiders, and he's the only one who can open it.