The Haunted Mansion (film)
The Haunted Mansion is a 2003 American horror comedy film based on the attraction of the same name at Disney theme parks. Directed by Rob Minkoff, the film is written by David Berenbaum and stars Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason in a dual role, Jennifer Tilly, and Dina Spybey.
The film was theatrically released in the United States on November 26 and is Disney's fifth film based on an attraction following the television film Tower of Terror (1997), Touchstone Pictures' Mission to Mars (2000), The Country Bears (2002), and (2003). The film grossed $182.3 million worldwide on a $90 million budget and was panned by critics.
Jim and Sara Evers are successful realtors with two children, Michael and Megan. A workaholic with little time for his family, Jim misses his wedding anniversary and tries to make amends by suggesting a vacation to the nearby lake. Sara is contacted by the occupants of Gracey Manor, located in the Louisiana bayou; Jim, eager to make a deal after learning where the mansion is, takes Sara and the children to the mansion, meeting its owner, Edward Gracey, his butler, Ramsley and two other servants; maid Emma and footman Ezra.
When a rainstorm floods the nearby river, Gracey allows the family to stay for the night. Ramsley takes Jim to the library to discuss the deal with Gracey, but Jim becomes trapped in a secret passage. Gracey gives Sara a tour of the mansion, discussing his past and his grandfather's death after the suicide of his lover, Elizabeth Henshaw. Megan and Michael follow a spectral orb to the attic, where they find a portrait of a woman that bears an almost identical resemblance to Sara. Emma and Ezra appear and identify the woman as the late Elizabeth.
Meanwhile, Jim meets Madame Leota, the ghost of a gypsy whose head is encased in her crystal ball. He runs into Emma, Ezra, and his children, and returns to Leota for answers about Elizabeth's likeness to Sara. It is then revealed that the mansion’s inhabitants are ghosts, cursed a century ago by Gracey and Elizabeth's untimely deaths, and can only enter the afterlife when the lovers are reunited; Sara is believed to be Elizabeth's reincarnation. Leota then sends the Evers to the mansion's cemetery to find a key that will reveal the truth behind Elizabeth's death. In a crypt beneath a mausoleum, Jim and Megan find the key, but inadvertently disturb its undead residents. However, they escape with help from Michael, who overcomes his arachnophobia.
Leota leads them to a trunk in the attic, which Jim unlocks to find a letter Elizabeth wrote to Gracey, revealing she truly loved him and wanted to marry him, indicating that she was murdered. Ramsley then appears and reveals he murdered Elizabeth to prevent Gracey from abandoning his heritage, as he believed their relationship was unacceptable. To hide the truth, Ramsley traps the children in a trunk and literally throws Jim out of the mansion.
As Gracey and Sara rendezvous in the ballroom, she is confused when he asks if she recognizes him, and he insists she is his beloved Elizabeth. The room fills with dancing ghosts as Gracey reveals his ghostly self, but Sara insists she is not Elizabeth. This gives Gracey second thoughts, but Ramsley insists that Sara is Elizabeth and, in time, she will remember. Ramsley blackmails Sara into marrying Gracey in exchange for her children's safety.
Encouraged by Leota, Jim manages to re-enter the mansion, rescue his children, and stop Sara and Gracey's wedding. He gives Gracey Elizabeth's letter and Ramsley's crimes are exposed. As Gracey angrily confronts Ramsley, he rages at his master's apparent selfishness for loving Elizabeth and summons wraiths to attack the group. However, with the truth revealed, a fiery entity emerges from the ballroom's fireplace and seizes Ramsley, who attempts to take Jim with him, but he is saved by Gracey as Ramsley is dragged down to Hell to face eternal punishment.
Sara collapses, having been poisoned by Ramsley during the wedding ceremony, but the spectral orb appears and, possessing Sara, is revealed to be Elizabeth's ghost, who could only be released from her current form once the truth was revealed. Elizabeth and Gracey reunite as Sara is subsequently revived. With the curse finally lifted, Gracey gives the Evers the deed to the mansion and departs to Heaven with Elizabeth, Emma, Ezra, and the mansion's other inhabitants. The Evers drive across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway for a proper vacation, accompanied by Leota and four singing busts that they encountered while searching for the mausoleum strapped to the back of their car.
The film's chief makeup artist Rick Baker appears in the graveyard scene as a ghost behind a tombstone, using an appearance based on the Ghost Host's portrait seen in the attraction. The cast also includes an uncredited Martin Klebba as Pickwick, one the ghosts in the graveyard, albeit unnamed and only known as "Happy Ghost" and director Rob Minkoff's nephew, who appears as the paperboy in the opening scene.
The mansion scenes were filmed at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, California. The main building was constructed over a period of weeks while the cupola and chimneys on the top of the mansion were computer-generated. The rest of film was shot in New Orleans and surrounding areas. The mansion's architecture is Renaissance-influenced with a mix of antebellum and Dutch-colonial revival architecture. One evidence of this is the exterior design, which is a mix-up of the attraction's exteriors in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, with the iron/glass conservatory being a nod to the latter.
Five Hidden Mickeys are seen; the most notable ones being the padlock at the mansion's gates, the second when an executioner's axe nearly hits Jim, and a third which is briefly seen when Ramsley pours the poison in the goblet of wine during the wedding. Two other hidden mickeys are the couch in the library and the windows on the doors Jim passes when he flees Madame Leota's chamber with a ghostly musical band chasing him. Before leaving the mansion via ghost carriage to find the mausoleum, Ezra exclaims "there's always my way," a pivotal line of dialogue from the attraction.
The costume and special effects designers wanted the ghost characters to become "more dead" the farther they were from the mansion. While Ezra and Emma look human in the house, their leaving it causes them to become blue and transparent. The zombies in the mausoleum were described as the "deadest as they are farthest away". Rick Baker, the chief costume designer, did the prosthetic makeup for the zombies in the mausoleum, using skull heads for the zombie design. He also designed one of the zombies as an elderly man holding a cane in order for the mausoleum scene not to be too frightening to viewers.
This was the first film to air on Disney Channel to contain any profanity besides "hell" or "damn". It also contained the phrase "Big ass termites!", uttered by Jim when he sees the breathing door.
In the opening scene of the film, Nathaniel Parker had great difficulty trying to carry Marsha Thomason up the staircase, which is shown on the expressions of his face. This was due to her slippery silk dress.
According to Box Office Mojo, The Haunted Mansion grossed $24,278,410 on its opening weekend with an average of $7,776 per theatre in the United States. With the domestic gross at $75,847,266, the film gained more than a quarter of the earnings of its theme-ride predecessor . The film achieved better in other markets, with an international total of $106,443,000.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 13% based on 137 reviews and an average rating of 2.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Neither scary nor funny, The Haunted Mansion is as lifeless as the ghosts in the movie." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 34 out of 100 based on 34 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on April 20, 2004. The DVD release came with several special features, including a behind-the-scenes look at the film's production, describing how the zombies were created, and how certain visual effects were performed or produced; a scene anatomy of the graveyard; a virtual interactive ride of the film's Haunted Mansion with Emma and Ezra as hosts; a single deleted scene; an outtake reel; and a minute and a half long video about the attractions. The film was released on Blu-Ray disc on October 17, 2006.
In July 2010, it was announced that a reboot adaptation based on Disney's The Haunted Mansion was in development with Guillermo del Toro serving as writer and producer. The filmmaker stated that the project would not take place in a real-world setting, but a heightened reality instead. He revealed that the Hatbox Ghost would be one of the main characters, while also stating the movie will be "scary and fun at the same time, but the scary will be scary." In June of 2011, Walt Disney World Imagineer Jason Surrell, was brought onto the project as a creative consultant. In August 2012, del Torro submitted the final draft of his script to Walt Disney Studios, with the project intended for a PG-13 rating. By July 2013, del Torro announced that he was no longer attached to the project as director, though he is the co-writer and producer. In April 2015, Ryan Gosling was in early-negotiations to star, while D.V. DeVincentis was hired to do a rewrite of the script. In September 2016, Brigham Taylor was hired as an additional producer.
In August 2020, it was announced that writer Katie Dippold will serve as screenwriter on a new script, while Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich will co-produce. In April 2021, Justin Simien signed on as director. The project will be a joint-venture production between Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Rideback.