(Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)


(“Haunted Mansion” trailer courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)

Hollywood would find it difficult to go wrong with ghosts because people obviously love ghosts.

The Holy Ghost.

Ghost from “Power.”

Even Casper the Friendly Ghost.

But when Hollywood adds every A-list celebrity they can nab for “Haunted Mansion,” the home gets a little too crowded to become great.

Regardless, “Haunted Mansion” is worth a visit or a tour, just not necessarily a home purchase.

In “Haunted Mansion,” Ben Matthias’ (Lakeith Stanfield) life could not possibly get much better.

Ben has an illustrious job as an astrophysicist.

He has great friends and colleagues.

And he is having a grand time at a New Year’s Eve party.

What more could a young man ask for?

It is funny because even though Ben seems content, a chance encounter with Alysa (Charity Jordan) at the bar changes the course of his life forever.

Although Ben and Alysa seem to not have the same interests on the outside looking in, they actually do.

Ben’s job as an astrophysicist has him conducting research for a camera that he plans to invent that will allow people to see things that the human eye cannot detect.

On the other hand, Alysa works as a tour director for ghost sightseeing tours in New Orleans.

One is a scientist.

The other is a tour guide.

However, they both have a fascination with seeing things that might not be there like the supernatural.

Or are there supernatural forces out there that human beings just have not discovered?

No matter if Ben believes in ghosts or not, something tragic obviously happens to him and his career because the once revered scientist is now working as angry sightseeing conductor who takes visitors of the “Crescent City” to alleged haunted houses and buildings.

Although Alysa loves the job, Ben spends most of his off time getting drunk and his time on the clock trying to dispel the believe that ghosts really exist, even though the patrons pay him to show them proof of the supernatural.

In “Haunted Mansion,” Ben is so mean and surly that he does not even pretend to play cordial with his neighbors.

Therefore, when a priest named Kent (Owen Wilson) shows up at his doorstep, and invites himself into Ben’s house, the disgruntled tour guide immediately tries to throw him out of the house.

But when Kent tells Ben that he has a quick job that will pay him thousands of dollars, the normally lethargic Ben gets some much-needed pep in his step.

In “Haunted Mansion,” Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her 9-year-old son Travis (Chase Dillon) have recently moved into an old mansion that is definitely in need of some TLC.

Gabbie has dreams of opening a bed and breakfast in the mansion that she purchased on Zillow.

However, Travis immediately gets weird vibes from the mansion as if something or someone is following him or looking at him.

Unfortunately for Travis, Gabbie initially sees the charm in the mansion, with no reason for concern.

However, when a statue of sorts begins creeping up behind them, Gabbie gets the heck out of dodge, not being the stereotypical woman who dies in a horror film because they ignored the spookiness in the building.

Unfortunately, Gabbie and Travis are forced to return to their new home.

That is when, via Kent, they reach out to Ben to see if his infamous camera that captures things naked to the human eye can detect whether their new mansion is indeed haunted.

To round out the ghostbusting or ghost-detecting crew, Ben and Gabbie enlist a medium by the name of Harriet (Tiffany Haddish) and a Tulane University professor named Bruce (Danny Devito) who has been obsessed with that strange mansion for years.

The ragtag bunch must find answers and eliminate any enemies, in the human realm or the ghost realm, or end up a ghost themselves, as in a memory (also known as deceased).

Although the storyline of “Haunted Mansion” might not get people overly excited, think of Haddish playing a psychic/tarot card reading type woman who has never left the hood.

In “Haunted Mansion,” Harriet brags about buying her supplies like sage at Costco and her notepad for the ghosts to write on from the local CVS Pharmacy.

The only criticism of Haddish is that no matter what role she plays in, if it is a comedy, it is basically the same character and that is she plays the character with her own personality, which still works for now.

Despite that criticism, Haddish does have the dramatic chops to avoid the typecast trap, just look at her role as Lelia in “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madame C.J. Walker.”

Another actor that undoubtedly has the dramatic chops is Stanfield, whose emotional reveal towards the conclusion of “Haunted Mansion” is tear-producing.

Although “Haunted Mansion” is nothing out of the ordinary, the visuals from the ghost realm scenes are more than ordinary with the various colors and visual effects.

Furthermore, “Haunted Mansion” has extraordinary star power with the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Jared Leto, Dan Levy and Winona Ryder.

That star power shows the career elevation of Houston filmmaker Justin Simien, who Regal Mag has interviewed in the past.

Simien’s talents are diverse enough for the satirical “Dear White People” to another comedy horror in “Bad Hair,” which starred Lena Waithe.

Many of his movies have an offbeat feel to him.

So far, however, the fantastic “Dear White People” is the Houstonian’s magna opus.

But with the type of talent that Simien attracts to his films, it is almost impossible for him to go totally wrong with any movie.







Todd A. Smith
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