The Haunted Mansion (film)

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This article is about the 2003 film. For the 1998 Hong Kong horror film, see Haunted Mansion (1998 film).
The Haunted Mansion
Haunted mansion ver3.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Minkoff
Produced by Andrew Gunn
Don Hahn
Written by David Berenbaum
Based on Disneyland's The Haunted Mansion
Starring Eddie Murphy
Terence Stamp
Nathaniel Parker
Marsha Thomason
Jennifer Tilly
Music by Mark Mancina
Cinematography Remi Adefarasin
Edited by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly
Walt Disney Pictures
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date(s) November 26, 2003 (2003-11-26)
Running time 88 minutes
Language English
Budget $90 million[1]
Box office $182,436,254[1]

The Haunted Mansion is a 2003 American horror comedy film based on the attraction of the same name at Disney theme parks. The film was directed by Rob Minkoff, written by David Berenbaum and stars Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason, and Jennifer Tilly. It was released on November 26, 2003 and is Disney's fourth film based on an attraction at one of its theme parks, following Tower of Terror (1997), The Country Bears (2002) and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) (the latter being the first installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series).


Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) is a workaholic real estate agent who has little time for his family, wife Sara (Marsha Thomason), daughter Megan (Aree Davis) and son Michael (Marc John Jefferies). After missing his own wedding anniversary to seal a business deal, Jim promises his family to go on a weekend away to a nearby lake. Sara is contacted by the occupants of Gracey Manor, located in the bayou swamps of New Orleans, and an eager Jim drags his family along to do business at the house. They meet Master Edward Gracey (Nathaniel Parker), his stern butler Ramsley (Terence Stamp), and other staff Emma (Dina Waters) and Ezra (Wallace Shawn). Master Gracey invites the family to stay the night when a rainstorm floods the river. Jim is taken to the library by Ramsley; he becomes trapped in a secret passageway. Michael and Megan encounter a "ghost ball" which leads them to the mansion's attic where they find a portrait of a woman resembling Sara. Sara meets Master Gracey who explains that his ancestor's lover Elizabeth Henshaw (also portrayed by Marsha Thomason) seemingly committed suicide via poison, and his ancestor followed suit via hanging.

However, Jim encounters gypsy woman Madame Leota (Jennifer Tilly), whose spirit is encased in a crystal ball. After briefly being scared away, Jim and his children learn that all of the mansion's residents are actually ghosts, cursed to be trapped in the mansion until Master Gracey and Elizabeth's ghosts are reunited, and Master Gracey believes that Sara is his lover reincarnated. In order to break the curse, Madame Leota sends the Evers family, minus Sara, into the mansion's cemetery and to a mausoleum to fetch a key that Madame Leota claims is required for "the truth to be known". Jim and Megan locate the key, but awaken all of the mausoleum's undead inhabitants; they escape unharmed thanks to Michael overcoming his arachnophobia and rescuing them. Madame Leota points the family to a trunk in the attic, where Jim finds an old letter from Elizabeth to Edward with the promise of marriage, revealing that her suicide was false. Ramsley appears and reveals that he murdered Elizabeth to prevent Master Gracey from abandoning his home and heritage. To hide the truth, he traps the children in a trunk and literally throws Jim out of the mansion, the curse on the mansion 'healing' any damage caused when Jim attempts to break back in through the windows.

Master Gracey reveals to Sara his ghostly self, and obsessively believes she is Elizabeth. Ramsley approaches Sara and blackmails her into marrying Master Gracey for the sake of her children. During the wedding ceremony, Ramsley poisons Sara's drink so that she will die and return as a ghost and end the curse. Madame Leota gives Jim the confidence to ram his BMW into the house- thus causing so much damage that the curse cannot repair it before he enters the house-, save his children and confront the ghosts. He gives the letter to Master Gracey, revealing to him the truth about Elizabeth's death, and Master Gracey confronts Ramsley for murdering Elizabeth. An enraged Ramsley admits that he killed Elizabeth because he believed that Gracey's marrying Elizabeth will ruin the Gracey family wealth and tries to summon wraiths to kill the group, but a fiery demon emerges from the fireplace during the chaos and drags Ramsley into the mouth of Hell for his actions. Ramsley seizes Jim and attempts to pull him down with him to Hell for ruining his plans, but then Master Gracey rescues Jim while Ramsley is dragged into Hell forever. Sara succumbs to the poison, but the ghost ball arrives and possesses her body, revealing itself to be Elizabeth's ghost. Elizabeth and Master Gracey kiss, and Sara is revived when Elizabeth drains the poison while turning from the ghost ball into her true form she reveals to her love she could not help until the truth was discovered thanking Jim for saving her. Jim then holds Sara and makes amends for ignoring her. The two make up and kiss. In gratitude and seeking redemption, Master Gracey gives the Evers the deed to the house, allowing them to do what they want with it as long as they remain happy. The ghosts all depart the mansion and move on to Heaven.

The film ends with the Evers driving off on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, accompanied by Madame Leota and four singing busts, which Jim and the kids met earlier, who end the film with their own rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In.

In the post-credits, Madame Leota bids farewell to the audience and invites them to join the dead using dialogue quoted verbatim from the Disney theme park ride.


In credits order

  • Eddie Murphy as Jim Evers, a workaholic real estate agent who is often late for family gatherings, but tries his best to make up for it.
  • Terence Stamp as Ramsley, the mysterious butler of Gracey Manor who serves as a fatherly figure to Master Gracey.
  • Nathaniel Parker as Master Edward Gracey, the owner of Gracey Manor. He is a polite and friendly man, who longs for his lost love Elizabeth to return to him after her apparent suicide.
  • Marsha Thomason as Sara Evers, Jim's supporting wife.
    • Marsha Thomason also portrays Elizabeth Henshaw, Master Gracey's long-lost lover.
  • Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota, a gypsy woman whose spirit is encased in a crystal ball as a head shrouded by green mist. She speaks in cryptic riddles.
  • Wallace Shawn as Ezra, a bumbling footman who worries about getting into trouble.
  • Dina Waters as Emma, a nervous but helpful maid who seems terrified of Ramsley.
  • Marc John Jefferies as Michael Evers, Jim and Sara's 10-year-old son who is very arachnophobic.
  • Aree Davis as Megan Evers, Jim and Sara's 13-year-old daughter who is impatient and stroppy.


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 paperboy in the opening scene is the nephew of the director, Rob Minkoff. A Hidden Mickey is briefly seen when Ramsley pours the poison in the goblet of wine during the wedding. Upon leaving the mansion via ghost carriage to find the mausoleum, Ezra exclaims "there's always my way," a pivotal line of dialogue from the hanging scene in the Disney theme park ride.

The costume and special effects designers wanted the ghost characters to become "more dead" the farther they were from the mansion. Note that while Ezra and Emma look human in the house, their leaving it causes them to become blue and transparent. The zombies in the mausoleum are the "deadest," as they are farthest away.

This was the first movie to air on Disney Channel to contain any profanity besides "hell" or "damn." It also contained the phrase "Big ass termites!", uttered by Murphy.

The scene where Edward hangs himself, taken specifically from the "room-stretching" portion of the Disney theme park ride, is usually cut from the broadcasts.[citation needed]

The design of the mansion is loosely based on Disneyland's version of The Haunted Mansion while the iron/glass conservatory was based on Walt Disney World's version of the ride.

In the opening scene of the film, Nathaniel Parker had great difficulty trying to carry Elizabeth up the staircase, which is shown on the expressions of his face. This was due to her slippery silk dress.


Box office[edit]

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 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The film achieved better in foreign markets, with an overseas total of $106,443,000.[1]

Critical response[edit]

The Haunted Mansion received very negative reviews from critics. It currently holds a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 139 reviews, with the general consensus that it was "Neither scary nor funny" and that it was "as lifeless as the ghosts in the movie".[2]

Home media [edit]

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.


It was announced on July 22, 2010, at San Diego Comic-Con International that a new film based on Disney's The Haunted Mansion was in development with Guillermo del Toro writing and producing. Del Toro saw the 2003 film with his daughters; when asked about his involvement in the new project, he said, "the thing I want to do is remake it."[3] Elaborating, he commented, "The movie I see in my head of 'Haunted Mansion' is not, I believe, what everyone is imagining it to be. It's not just a regular world with a haunted mansion plopped in the middle. I really am thinking of a movie that has a heightened reality."[4] Del Toro said that Hatbox Ghost would be the main haunting[4] and added, "We are not making it a comedy. We are making it scary and fun at the same time, but the scary will be scary." It is to be filmed in live-action 3D.[5] To help make a respectful adaptation, del Toro has contacted Walt Disney World Imagineer Jason Surrell, author of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, to act as a possible consultant for the film.[6] Del Toro has also announced he is aiming for a PG-13 rating for The Haunted Mansion.[7] On August 7, 2012, Del Toro mentioned in an interview with Collider that he had submitted his final draft to Disney, and that "they like the screenplay" because "their reaction to the draft was good".[8] Del Toro revealed that he will co-write the film, but won't direct it.[9]

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