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Not Murphy’s Mansion

Posted on the 20 May 2024 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

One of the dangers of streaming is that you can be talked into a movie by the fact of its availability.  Curiosity drove me to Disney’s The Haunted Mansion movie and that led to the discovery that there had been a reboot.  I’m drawn to haunted houses but not to theme parks, but well, you wonder how they might’ve thought they could’ve done it better.  The original movie failed to rock the critics, so, as the saying goes, try, try again.  Last year’s Haunted Mansion is over the top.  The story is more complex, with an ensemble cast, and not really funny or scary.  Based on a sad premise—two families with deceased spouses—they’re drawn, with three other New Orleans outsiders, to a, well, haunted mansion.  The main ghost is looking for a soul to harvest but as the two hours wend on, the characters reveal their sadnesses (one doesn’t).  Perhaps the idea is catharsis, but there are too many subplots and too many abrupt shifts of mood.

Not Murphy’s Mansion

A movie should know, it seems to me, what it wants to be.  You feel for the sadness and loss of the characters but  I know something about using horror cathartically, and this movie doesn’t do it.  There are jokes and running gags, but they’re not really funny.  There’s religion involved, but it turns out to be fake, with even a faked exorcism.  There are literally 100 ghosts.  And really only one bad guy among them.  There’s drinking to drown sorrows, murders, and even adult humor that is somehow deeply disturbing.  There are a few nods to the original movie but the plot is quite different and it leaves you feeling drained.

With a budget of about $150,000,000, stops were pulled out all over this organ.  It doesn’t, however, have a focus.  In the original film, the Evers family really has a need to reconnect.  The mansion does that for them, through its ghosts.  The reboot implies at the end that two broken families might heal each other and that evil leads to its own punishment.  Still it leaves open the question: what is this movie trying to be?  The more cynical might say it’s only for money (the worldwide gross didn’t reach covering its budget), but I have to think that those who make movies do so for more than just a buck.  Coping with death is a profound human need that begins when a pet or, more seriously, a family member dies.  I’m not sure that Disney is the best authority on the subject.  At least not for those of us who use horror as therapy.

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