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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Movie #16: The Haunted Mansion (2003)

"Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween awaken the spirits with your tambourine."

This film actually has the lowest Quality Rating of all the films in our month-long countdown, even though it was recommended by 5 of the lists surveyed. Personally, I didn't think it was that bad. Then again, I'm not ready to let my 7-year-olds watch this one yet, mostly because of some of the unnecessary bad language.

And apparently I'm the only one who objected to Eddie Murphy's character continued insistence that his child kill the spider that was in his bedroom.


  • Rating: PG "for frightening images, thematic elements and language"

  • Minimum Recommended Age: 8 (Common Sense Media: "Iffy for ages 7-9")

  • Quality Rating: 40.0% (Common Sense Media: 1 star, Parent Previews Overall Grade: C+, Movie Mom Grade: D, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 4.2)

  • Number of Lists Recommend: 5

  • Sex/Violence/Profanity: Language examples include "big-ass termites", "We went to Hell and back to get this thing.", "You gonna kill me, kill me. Listen, I come on the other side, I'm gonna just be whipping your ass for all eternity.", and "Well damn you. Damn you all to Hell!" According to IMDB, "At least 3 craps, 2 asses, 2 damns, 1 hell and 1 use each of 'Oh God' and 'Oh my God.'"

  • Main Child Character Age: Carol Anne: 5 (Heather O'Rourke was 7 at the time), Robbie: 11

  • Running Time: 88 minutes

  • What does it have to do with Halloween? Nothing


Realtor Jim Evers and his wife and business partner Sara get a call late one night from mansion owner Edward Gracey, who is looking to sell his property. Smelling the biggest deal of their career, Jim, Sara and their two children pay a visit to the mansion, located on a remote bayou. A torrential thunderstorm of mysterious origin strands the Evers family in the old mansion with the brooding, eccentric Gracey, his mysterious butler, Ramsley, and a variety of residents both seen and unseen. At first Jim scoffs at Gracey's stories about ghosts and hauntings, until he unearths the mystery of the mansion and finds that his wife Sara has unexpected connections to its haunted past.

Watch Out For

Common Sense Media:
Parents need to know that there are lots of chases and peril involving ghosts and skeletons. The atmospherics of the crypt scenes might scare younger viewers. A ghost is dragged into a fiery pit while other ghosts dematerialize to ascend into the heavens. Younger children might be scared when the Evers parents, Jim and Sarah, are threatened.

Movie Mom:
There is a brief shot of drawings on a tarot card with frontal nudity and Jim says the ghost wants to "get jiggy with" his wife. Jim steals a cigar and matches. This is an overstuffed and under-imagined attempt to turn a six-minute ride into a 90 minute picture. The plot is as thin as spider webs and is as predictable as a Scooby-Doo episode. The result is barely worth the price of a video rental, even from 99 cent bin.

Parent Previews:
While the promotional trailers for the film seem to imply there will be plenty of laughs, viewers may be disappointed to discover they've already seen nearly every guffaw this film has to offer before even taking their seats. Wobbling between comedic one-liners from Murphy and intense scenes with grappling, grotesque zombies, the movie has a hard time deciding to which audience it wants to appeal.

Although profanities are fairly rare, a swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated shows up in the bedroom of a 10-year-old boy, as does a large decanter of spirits (and not the ghostly kind). A suicide by hanging, repeated poisonings, swordplay and the brusque disposal of a man through a second floor window all add up on the list of possible parental concerns.

There is eerie organ music played and a booming, ghostly voice speaks while the opening credits roll and we watch events that lead to a woman's death (we see her fall limp on a sofa after drinking poisoned wine) and a man hanging himself (we see him dangling with the rope around his neck). Suits of armor come to life, swing their swords, flails (spiked balls on chains) and spears at a man, the man is nearly hit with an axe, he stabs one with a spear and lifts it into the air, and others have their "heads" lopped off. A woman collapses after having drunk poisoned wine, and her body levitates off the ground. A man with a sword threatens another man. Two children are locked in a trunk and hung from a chain. A man is thrown through a window, crashes onto a house roof, slides off and crashes onto a car roof. A man and two children walk through a cemetery, the man and girl go into a crypt, they open a coffin, we see a decayed and skeletal corpse, and the man removes a key from the corpse's hand (we hear crunching and squishing); the corpse and many other corpses begin to move and come after the two, the man knocks the head off of one and it floats in the water near a girl who screams while she is grabbed at by many other zombies. A girl goes under water where there are many decayed corpses. A zombie's arm is cut off when it is closed in a door (we see it hit the floor). Ghostly forms fly through a room, flames from a fireplace grow and take the shape of a dragon wrapping itself around a man (he's a ghost) who is taken down into a deep hole, and he grabs another man as he goes but the man is pulled back up. A man sees his reflection in a mirror and his face looks decayed and mummified (he screams). A man threatens two children. A door is covered with many large spiders and a boy must open the door (he ends up with many spiders crawling on him). A man levitates in a chair, spins around a room with a table, he runs through a hallway chased by floating musical instruments and he's hit in the face by a drum. A man drives a car through a large window and crashes into a house. A ghostly horse-drawn carriage crashes through a wall, and the two ghostly drivers lose their heads when they crash into a tree limb. We see many ghosts in various activities -- one shoots another in the head with an arrow, and two duel with guns. People go into a house (the door opens by itself) while a storm is raging outside (thunder roars and lightning flashes) and a man approaches them from the shadows. A woman speaks (her head that is) from a crystal ball and talks about an evil spell. A man goes into a secret passage and the door rumbles as it closes behind him. A man swings at a ghost that turns to vapor. People discover a large, spooky cemetery in the back of an estate. A glowing vapor appears and frightens a girl and boy. Creepy-looking vines and tree limbs are all around the outside of the large house, we see animal heads, bones and body parts in a study, and a portrait of a rider changes to look skeletal. Portraits on a wall become animated as people pass, stone busts sing and move and a door appears to be breathing. Many "ghost balls" (glowing vapor) float into the sky. A man and a woman argue. A boy screams when he sees a spider and a girl squishes the spider on a window (we hear a crunch and see goo). A shockwave emits from a house and knocks a boy to the ground. A man talks about a woman having committed suicide and a man having hung himself because of a broken heart.

Talk About It

Common Sense Media:
Families can talk about priorities and how different people in the same family might view an action in a very different light. For example, Jim argues that he is trying to succeed in business so that his kids will have everything they want, whereas his kids argue that they really only want time with their parents. Families might also wish to discuss being scared and how Jim explains overcoming one's fears to his son.

Parent Previews:
Jim admits that none of these misadventures would have happened if he hadn’t got sidetracked on their family vacation. Can avoiding certain situations or places lessen a person’s chances of running into problems? What things or places do you try and steer clear of for that very reason?

One of Jim’s motives for working so hard is to provide his children with the things he never had as a youth. How does his daughter feel about that explanation? What appears to be important to her?

Being scared is OK. The only true failure is when you stop trying to resolve a scary situation.

Of Note

  • Originally, Don Knotts was cast as the Groundskeeper seen at the entrance to the cemetery in the ride. While the character was cut as the script developed, both the Groundskeeper and his faithful, fearful dog can be glimpsed among the ghosts populating the cemetery in the film.
  • Hidden Mickeys: - when Jim and Sara are at the gate to the mansion, Sara picks up the lock on the gate which is shaped like a Mickey head. - When Ramsley pours the powdered poison in Sarah's drink, a Mickey forms when the powder and drink mix. - The couch in the library is vaguely shaped as Mickey's head.
  • The make-up designed by Rick Baker for Ramsley (Terence Stamp) was to make him resemble Boris Karloff.
  • Following the massive success of Ghost Busters (1984), Disney green-lit the film in the mid 80s. However they at first would only give permission for the film to be made if either Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis or Rick Moranis would play the lead role.


"The Haunted Mansion" airs on October 20, 8:00PM Central, on Disney Channel


Watch It

Disney Channel Ha-Ha Halloween Promo


Jamie said...

As always I look for Hidden Mickeys in all Disney movies. The lock was the first thing. I saw this movie when it came out 12 times at the show and the 13th time was when I brought the DVD home.

I recently watched the movie Casper from Universal from 1995. To my amazement there was the SAME lock on Casper's "treasure chest" that Disney used.

So how did Disney get a hold of this lock since it's obvious that Universal used it first?

Stephen said...

Wow, good eye, Jamie! I didn't notice that - now I'll have to go back and look! Thanks for the comment.

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