Is Haunted Mansion's Remake Better Than the 2003 Disney Film?
In an era of remakes, many fans engage in heated debates comparing reboots to the originals. The Little Mermaid recently stirred up conversation again, which is understandable. It's quite natural to examine the past and present from a creative perspective, with Disney opening the door for this the most. The studio also remade The Lion King and Aladdin, which does feel like the train won't stop anytime soon.
Haunted Mansion is another movie adapting the theme park ride and retelling the 2003 movie that starred Eddie Murphy as Jim Ivers, a real estate agent whose family got trapped in the spooky manor. In this case, it's a very different story with Gabbie and Travis needing help to exorcize their New Orleans mansion so that they can have a place to live. With such a divergent take, many are curious which version is the best.
Haunted Mansion (2003) Has a Better Dark Romance
The 2003 movie had the ghost of Edward Gracey and his staff luring Jim and his wife, Sara, to their mansion. Edward was hoping to woo her, thinking she was his beloved Elizabeth reincarnated. It turns out, Elizabeth was poisoned years before, with someone hating he was white and she was Black. It spoke to racism centuries prior in America, how brave the likes of Elizabeth and Edward were, but also, how people of color were mistreated. Sadly, it would lead to Edward taking his own life.
Edward as a ghost had a lot more nuance than the new Gracey: William. The reboot uses him as a supporting character, losing his wife to yellow fever and then having Jamie Lee Curtis' Madame Leota work séances to communicate with her. They'd bring spirits over, including Jared Leto's Hatbox Ghost, the latter of whom would start trapping spirits and humans in a reincarnation scheme. Thus, the Gracey romance feels a bit light here.
The reboot does add some depth with other characters, namely, Ben (played by LaKeith Stanfield) trying to communicate with his wife, Alyssa. But there's no twist -- it's just a straightforward take on grief. In Edward's case, his trauma resonated more, diving into social and political issues of the era and how his butler committed the kill to protect the family estate. It also produces a villain more layered than the Hatbox Ghost, who just looks cool but feels quite generic. In short, the dark romance and villain of old felt much more fleshed out and thought-provoking than the modern spin.
Haunted Mansion (2003) Is a Better Spectacle
It's worth noting both movies honor the ride. But one would think advancements in CGI and technology would push the reboot to a whole new level. While the property evolves, most of the spectacles feel rudimentary. The CGI ghosts aren't that impressive, Hatbox Ghost feels like something seen in a MortalKombat game and there aren't many practical effects. Even the masterpiece shots of the house rearranging have been done in Inception. It's more style than substance.
The original Haunted Mansion, however, had a fresh, inventive and original feel to it with its zombie skeletons that nod to Ray Harryhausen. It hinged on simplicity and real-world haunting effects, which had more bite to it. That's not to say it didn't use CGI specters, but it felt a lot more like fans could encounter a home like this with this dust, dungeon and sheer sense of terror. The new Haunted Mansion has suspense, terror and cool ghouls, but the original with its treasure chests, puzzles, cryptic mysteries and haunts are more immersive. Ultimately, the predecessor middles the ground better in terms of a grounded essence and supernatural wow factor.
Haunted Mansion is now in theaters.