In life, we commune, we live, we love, and we have a merry adventure of highs and lows, but what about the afterlife? What happens to the spirits we leave behind in the mortal realm, where do they go, and how do they convene with the life we knew?
Well that’s what the intent of today’s double feature review is, to look at how two creators separately and smartly discuss grief, what we leave behind, and moving on in a healthy way as we look at Disney’s Haunted Mansion and also A24’s Talk to Me in a CoveredGeekly first “second look review”
A24’s Talk To Me Second Look Review
To best understand the context of this page, about a month ago I looked over the Phillipou brothers’ directorial debut, Talk to Me. Simply put, I loved this movie on first watch, it was an easy 10 out of 10, something I tend to give pretty sparingly.
Now on rewatching, I’ve discovered even more reasons to love what’s there.
It’s so hard to notice if you’re not actively looking for it, but almost every line of dialogue comes back into play at some point later in the movie, whether that be Mia discussing her fears, or Joss talking about Duckett seeing spirits without “the hand”, or of course the analogy of the wounded animal used at the beginning to get us into Mia’s headspace, and then again near the end by a specter to manipulate her into murdering her friend.
It’s insane how much effort, heart, and style was poured into a very well-utilized 95 minutes, still one of the best in a long while, don’t know if I still think it’s a flawless masterpiece, it’s still really dang good, and I can appreciate the craftsmanship, but there are some elements of the horror that I turn my head to, although strangely nothing about the characters, which is usually a secondary mark in a movie such as this. On rewatch, Talk to Me is a 9 out of 10, still excellent, but not perfect, and I still want to see where they go from here.
Disney’s 2023 Haunted Mansion Review
Thematically, Talk to Me is about grief, that much is obvious. It’s about how under the right circumstances we all can become our own monsters, living for the dead and gone rather than appreciating life as it is. That’s without bringing up the popular talking point that using the hand is almost like taking a hit of a drug, and there’s a lot you can tie that into, especially with the grief angle, like masking your pain in pleasure. I’m mentioning all this because it serves as an interesting counterpoint to Haunted Mansion which has a far more hopeful message about finding peace through others.
Disney’s Haunted Mansion is the second attempt to bring the beloved Disneyland attraction to the big screen. While the Eddie Murphy-led 2003 comedy has its fans, it’s far removed from the ride in both tone and story to the chagrin of many a regular parkgoer.
This modernized attempt is certainly ambitious, and it takes a lot of its blood from Disney’s two successful rides to movie transformations, Jungle Cruise and the early Pirates of the Caribbean movies, creating both adventure and horror that kids and adults can enjoy, much like the rides themselves.
While the comedy isn’t a major selling point this time around, Owen Wilson and Tiffany Haddish bring their A-game to the material, which is appreciated. If those two are easily the comedic highlights, then LaKeith Stanfield and Rosario Dawson are the dramatic highlights, and both do really well with the material given as experiencing the gambit of sadness, rage, loss, and joy, honestly, it tackles a lot.
My only gripe in terms of performance isn’t even with a performance, but rather what they do to it. Jared Leto, an actor known for being unsettling and strange is cast as the Hatbox Ghost, which is a really damn good fit, except for the fact that they put this obnoxious bass filter over everything he says, in a weird comparison, it’s similar to a problem that the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies (which now are also owned by Disney ha) have in that they cast these big name actors like Justin Long, Jesse McCartney, Anna Faris, and Amy Poehler as these characters and then they just pitch shift the actors voices so it’s completely unrecognizable.
At that point, either cast a voice actor like Corey Burton or Jeffrey Combs with a distinctive creepy voice or drop the filter from Leto. Beyond that, I was really impressed with the creativity of the film and the respect and due diligence to the mythos of the source material. It’s not perfect and a lot of the comedy truthfully falls kinda flat and yeah the Hatbox isn’t super developed or interesting, but it’s just so charming and earnest that you can look past the lesser elements and enjoy a spooky but endearing journey.
3.5 out of 5 stars
These movies kind of pair perfectly in equal and opposite ways, one subtle and cautionary, the other colorful and warm, but both deal with the macabre and touch on grief, both how it can unite and how it can destroy. As a double feature, I personally watched these in the order of Talk to Me followed by Haunted Mansion, which honestly, I’d say do it in that order.
I love Talk to Me, no shock there, but I also wouldn’t advise you to end your double feature on that as emotionally, it’s honestly kind of a downer, despite how much it fits. Instead, end on the big warm crowd-pleaser that honestly is a really good spectacle to close out on.
Like two sides of the same coin or a perfect reflection, one cannot exist without the other, peace cannot exist without the pain that caused it, and pain can’t exist without peace disturbed. The grief of the living is a thing we all go through in a unique medley of ways, some triumph and become stronger, and some fall into darkness and lose who they once were. Talk to Me is a 9/10, and Haunted Mansion is a 7/10, on average, their double feature rating is an 8/10 which is fitting, as these two flow together pretty uniquely.