Disney’s Haunted Mansion officially debuts tomorrow (Friday July 28, 2023) but some critics have been given early access. Disney, no doubt, hoped that these critics would help drive ticket sales since the studio has been suffering from flop after flop. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the film and fans have been excited to revisit the classic ride on the silver screen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely that early reviews are going to be a driving force for ticket sales.
Now that the review embargo has lifted we are finally getting a glimpse of viewers’ first thoughts about the much-anticipated film. What’s a review embargo? I had the same question. Here’s what I found out: “Review embargoes are limited-time restrictions which temporarily stop media outlets from publishing a review” (ItssaStampede.com). Essentially, they prevent bad press from tanking a movie in advance of its release. They’ll often lift 24 hours before a film’s theatrical release. That is what Disney imposed for Haunted Mansion but now, reviewers are dishing the good, the bad, and the dirty about Haunted Mansion.
Overall first impressions? It’s a snooze-fest. We have trouble believing that considering the stacked cast and treasure trove of source material the writers had to work with, but the reviews are overwhelmingly negative. The words “snoozefest,” “boring,” and “unfunny” pop up again and again in initial reviews. That’s bad news since the film has to compete against Oppenheimer and Barbie, two films that are currently smashing records at the box office. So what exactly are critics saying?
Nick Schager, The Daily Beast, writes, “It may abbreviate its predecessor’s title, but Haunted Mansion (in theaters July 28) is just as busy, corny, and predictable as its 2003 iteration—as well as destined to swiftly pass into the cinematic afterlife that is both convenience store bargain bins and cluttered streaming platform libraries.”
The Washington Post’s Lucas Trevor says, “With muddy CGI, far too much story for even its two-hour run time and an emotional heart in cardiac arrest, Haunted Mansion simply doesn’t hold together. What should have been a light summer romp is rarely funny, never scary and a boring mess.”
Justin Chang from the L.A. Times quips, “Like the ride, the movie is a rickety, silly-sinister vehicle that occasionally stalls and loses momentum.”
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, “”Woefully short on the necessary laughs and scares that would have made it a potential blockbuster franchise like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Haunted Mansion only makes you ponder how much better it might have turned out had Guillermo del Toro, who was originally attached to the project, remained creatively involved.”
It wasn’t all bad, however. Female reviews tended to be a bit more forgiving of the film. The positive reviews focused on the nuance and nostalgia that the film brings to the big screen.
Kristen Lopez from The Wrap said, “Overall, Haunted Mansion is a fun summer throwback to the likes of 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Inventive fun for every member of the family with a phenomenal lead performance by Stanfield.”
Liz Shannon Miller from Consequence shared, “But Haunted Mansion uses its existence as an opportunity to tell a story about life, death, and what it means to let go of someone you love — yet another reminder that in the right hands, previously existing intellectual property isn’t necessarily a roadblock for storytellers. Sometimes, it can be the car that makes the journey possible.”
What do you think? Will the negative press stop you from seeing the film? For our part, the Easter Eggs alone make the film worth at least one viewing. With Disney struggling, they need this film to be a hit. Even recent films that aren’t a total flop only seem to be eking out minor profits. Gone are the days that brand name alone was enough to drive viewers into theater seats. If Disney is going to continue to dominate the film industry, they’re going to need strong content that can compete with mega-blockbusters.