Stars: LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Chase Dillon, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito
Few would have expected great things of this remake of the poor 2003 picture, which was in turn adapted from a Disney theme ride, but this is truly cursed stuff.
Stanfield leads the far-too-good-for-this cast as Ben Matthias, an astrophysicist who has developed a camera to capture dark matter. His girlfriend, who runs a ghost tour of New Orleans, dies in a tragic accident, so the hyper-sceptical and grumpy Ben takes over.
He is visited by eccentric priest and exorcist Father Kent (Wilson) who asks for his help. New Yorker, Gabbie (Dawson) has recently moved to the grand Gracey Manor with her young socially awkward son Travis (the appealing Dillon channelling the late Gary Coleman). Gabbie claims that they are being terrorised by ghosts and unable to leave. Ben is asked to photograph the manor with his dark matter camera to disprove the existence of the ghosts and put their minds at ease. However, after his visit one of the spirits follows him home. Ben and Father Kent recruit sassy psychic Harriet (Haddish) and Bruce David (DeVito) an obnoxious historian who specialises in the supernatural, to help them banish the ghosts.
This is a comedy horror that is neither scary nor funny, with the script somehow managing to stretch a fairly simple premise over an excessive two-hour running time. The effects, incorporating CGI and the practical, feel ersatz, as does the picture’s bloodless rendering of New Orleans.
Stanfield is affable enough, but his laid-back, slightly spaced-out persona feels ill-suited to front this kind of broad mainstream project. Haddish and DeVito (who can do this kind of socially inept and rude character in his sleep) show the strain as they try and extract laughs from a scrappy and underwritten script.
A cameo midway from an actor from a far superior comedy haunted house picture only underlines the shortcomings of this effort, while a potentially poignant message about letting go of the past is lost in the melee.
Haunted Mansion is out now.
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