Back in 2003, Disney dropped a pair of films into theaters meant to turn popular theme park attractions into major motion pictures, and one of them was a hit. Pirates of the Caribbean went on to span a multi-film, billion-dollar franchise that now lives in a perpetual state of reboot threat, but The Haunted Mansion, starring Eddie Murphy, flopped. (I know fans of this film exist, but let’s not pretend like this is a forgotten classic.) Now, though, working off the Knives Out formula of a star-studded ensemble in a kooky locale, Disney is trying it again with a new The Haunted Mansion, this one featuring a star-studded cast, including a couple Knives Out alums. Honestly, it doesn’t look terrible.
The ensemble is fronted by Owen Wilson—is the internet going to lose their mind over Owen Wilson again this year?—Rosario Dawson, and Tiffany Haddish, and also includes LaKeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny DeVito, Dan Levy, Hasan Minhaj, Winona Ryder, and, ugh, Jared Leto (as one of the ghosts). Leto aside, that’s a cast! But more interestingly, it’s written by Katie Dippold, she of Parks & Rec and The Heat fame (and, okay, Ghostbusters 2016), and directed by Dear White People’s Justin Simien. I am SO intrigued to see what Justin Simien does with a DISNEY movie.
The trailer is promising. I’m not blown out of the water, but it doesn’t look like total garbage, either. Owen Wilson and LaKeith Stanfield are working a solid vibe, and you know how I feel about haunted houses—this is basically my dream home: New Orleans style. It’s giving Addams Family, it’s giving Whipstaff Manor, it’s giving Interview with a Vampire (abridged edition). I love a good haunted house aesthetic, and this trailer is certainly delivering on that.
Also, I am reminded that Owen Wilson was in the 1999 Shirley Jackson adaptation, The Haunting, which is terrible but was filmed at Harlaxton Manor, hands down the best Victorian Gothic pile in England. The number one question for The Haunted Mansion: Take Two is what Justin Simien can accomplish within the Disney machine, the second question is if this haunted house can top The Haunting’s version of Harlaxton Manor, aka my dream home.