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THE HAUNTED MANSION (2003)
Directed By Rob Minkoff. Written By David Berenbaum.
Tagline: Check your pulse at the door, if you have one.
What do you get when you take a bit of the happiest place on earth and mix it with a dash of spooks and screams? Why, Disney's "The Haunted Mansion" of course. What starts out as a masquerade ball turns into a night of deception, poison, and death. Flash to the present where the house, now on the market, catches the eye of former resident-look-alike, Sara Evers who's Real-estate husband, Jim, decides to take her family to the residency for the weekend. But once inside it seems surprises wait. An old music box with a ball of light; should she follow it? A secret passageway; who knows where it will lead? There is a crystal ball with a whirlwind of rhymes; if you have the time, and, a trip to the graveyard and a wedding; if they can make it out alive.
Welcome Foolish Mortals to the masquerade ball of the millennium. Everyone is dancing, laughing, and enjoying the gallantry of the evening whilst Elizabeth and Ramsely (Terrence Stamp) sneak off for a secret meeting where a note is passed. What follows is a deadly toast.
Flash forward to Real-estate Agent Jim Evers who has just received a phone call with the prospect of adding an expensive listing to Evers and Evers Realty. In hopes of securing a lucrative prospect and, make amends for his current neglectfulness as a husband and father, Jim proposes the family go on a vacation, which includes a quick pit stop at the mansion. Pulling up to the equally neglected mansion the Evers are greeted by an obliging gate which leads them down a pathway to a potential Real-estate goldmine. But once out of their cars, the Evers decide to explore the grounds where they stumble upon, a graveyard? As Ramsley the Butler interrupts the Evers discovery with news that the roads have been flooded from the storm, he equally insists the Evers stay until the conditions improve. The Evers are then introduced to Master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker), who seems strangely obsessed with Sarah.
As the family parts ways to settle into their room, Jim accidentally triggers a secret passage in the office where he is waiting to speak with Master Gracey. Before Jim lie a spooky hallway full of heart pounding twists and turns. Curious, Jim ventures into a room where he is greeted by the magical crystal ball, Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly) who is mumbling something to the effect of, "Great evil. A devil's curse. Release her. Release us all". An appropriately spooked Jim goes in search of his kids and unveils his discovery. But it seems he's not the only one with a surprise. The kids have stumbled upon a music box with a ghostly floating ball, and, an old picture of a lady named Elizabeth (Marsha Thomason) who looks exactly like their mother.
Meanwhile the house servants, who are all ghosts of past, set about making the Evers uncomfortable. Upon discovering that the Evers are indeed the only living inhabitants of the house, Jim tries to find a way to get his family out of the 'haunted mansion' before its too late. With help from the riddling Madame Leota, Jim goes in search of a key to the Mausoleum that will trigger the dead back to life; a key that apparently holds the answer to the house's mystery, and the salvation of the Evers family.
With credible special effects, a solid comical performance by Eddie Murphy, and the power of Disney backing the film, "The Haunted Mansion" is a delightfully frightful family film that is enjoyable for folks of all ages. What's more the pace is right on key, there's always something happening, with different layering effects of both plot schemes, and character relations, that keep audiences of young and hold attune throughout the entire film.
In particular, the atmosphere and motifs of the film make it a perfect pick for family nights. Adults fear not. For those of you who have a hard time with the over the top horror movies of modern day cinematography, "The Haunted Mansion" is a dulled-down, delightful version that will do justice for even the 'jitteriest' of nerves. It's not the notorious theme-park ride, but it is the next best thing.
Eddie Murphy is Jim Evers, the workaholic husband preoccupied with the prospects of the next real-estate transaction. Once in the house however, Jim must reconcile his avaricious ways to save his wife and kids.
Terence Stamp is Ramsley, the disturbingly creepy, pale Butler.
Nathaniel Parker is Master Gracey, a tortured soul determined not to rest until he finds his lost love, Elizabeth.
Marsha Thomason is Sara Evers, the woman whose striking resemblance to Elizabeth triggers this haunted mystery.
Jennifer Tilly is Madame Leota, the crystal ball who helps Jim and the kids solve the haunted mystery by divulging clues.
Rated PG for frightening images, thematic elements and language.