Haunted Mansion (2003) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason, Jennifer Tilly
Director: Rob Minkoff

Eddie Murphy leads an all star cast in this very scary movie with his usual fast taking gusto that fits the bill perfectly as a successful estate agent, Jim Evers, on the scent of the biggest sale of his life when his wife and business partner Sara (Marsha Thomason) takes a mysterious late night call inviting her to sell a mansion. On route for a weekend break, Jim, Sara and their children Megan and Michael make a detour stopping off at the mansion located on a remote bayou – at the request of owner Edward Gracey (Nathaniel Parker) – but find it eerily silent, looking almost derelict and grounds overgrown with a graveyard behind it! A sudden storm forces them to seek shelter inside but once there it seems as if they have stepped back into the nineteenth century and are greeted by a very weird butler called Ramsley (Terence Stamp) who sidelines Jim giving Sara all his attention.

The trap is set and from then on its up to the Evers family to unravel the mystery that they are becoming sucked into and consumed by. Trouble is they have all been separated from each other. Megan and Michael are lured away by a bright swirling light, Jim finds a secret cupboard in the library leading into a cobbled passageway that he enters and you’ve guessed it the doorway closes behind him, and Sara – well Sara is alone with Master Gracey reunited at last just as Ramsley has conspired.

Into this melting pot come some very scary sequences as the house seems to come alive or is it the restless souls and ghosts – good and evil – that are not making it easy for Jim and his children to unravel the mystery of why Sara is so important to Master Gracey and especially Ramsley before it’s too late.

Director Rob Minkoff, who also directed and was an executive producer for both the STUART LITTLE movies, really excels at keeping the creepy aspects well paced and increasing with intensity as the plot thickens and the time is running out as Sara’s real purpose for being enticed there is revealed. The kids will probably be hiding behind their popcorn cartons all too frequently but it is nicely offset with some humour from Eddie Murphy and some of the friendly ghosts that are encountered such as The Singing Statues. It’s these extras and light relief interspersed throughout that give the movie that unique edge. It will certainly entertain, plus the ensemble cast all give good performances. One of my favourites was Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota who gets to become part of the Evers family – somehow!

As the end credits close with – “Be sure to bring your death certificate, we’re dying to have you” – all I can add is if you don’t like skeletons, spiders, zombies, a talking headless orb and things that go bump in the night then this might not be for you – but the kids will love it anyway!

5 out of 6 stars