Muppets Haunted Mansion, 2021.
Directed by Kirk Thatcher
Starring Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, Will Arnett, Taraji P. Henson, and Matt Vogel.
On the anniversary of the date his favourite magician went missing in the infamous Haunted Mansion, Gonzo is challenged to spend the night there. Accompanied by Pepe, he must face and brave the fearsome sights the mansion has to offer, or be trapped there for eternity.
As the first ever Muppets Halloween special, it’s easy to wonder why on Earth it’s never been done before. Because it’s perfect. Whether you’re coming as a fan of The Muppets, the Haunted Mansion ride, or just Halloween itself, it really has something for everyone. From the opening moments, we’re given spooky locations, Halloween-themed props and costumes, and an abundance of typical spook-tacular sound effects. It instantly plunges us deep into the feeling of the season, letting us know that it is not messing around and intends to go all out.
It is equally as successful as a Muppets TV special, bringing together all of the joyful elements that are expected of it. The few songs sprinkled throughout the short runtime are fun, if not always interestingly choreographed. Even when our puppet fiends aren’t engaging in song and dance, and despite the fact that their aim is to scare Gonzo, there is always an air of merriment about the whole of the mansion. In fact, this tones carries throughout the whole special. It is just a joyous Halloween celebration for the entire family.
Their human counterparts are equally fun, and the celebrity cameos are wonderful as always. The standout performances come from Yvette Nicole Brown as Gonzo’s chauffeur to the Mansion, Taraji P. Henson as a deliciously homicidal bride, and Will Arnett as the Ghost Host. Taking a leaf out of Dwayne Johnson’s Jungle Cruise playbook, Arnett gleefully gives almost the exact spiel that a host on the Disneyland ride gives to the guests, and he’s chock full of charisma. Aside from those notable three all of the cameos, no matter how brief, are memorable.
Arnett’s host isn’t the only aspect of the show that’s true to the ride. The entire special is an ode to the Haunted Mansion. As Arnett gives his introductory speech, he is surrounded by elaborate portraits. Anyone who has been on the ride knows what comes next, and the room begins to elongate as the floor moves slowly downward. Other characters and aspects of the ride are also present throughout – Miss Piggy’s character (who is trapped in a crystal ball) is clearly taken directly from the imagery of the original Haunted Mansion. There are many more moments that mirror the Disneyland experience, and this adds an extra layer of fun to what is already one of most exciting Muppet productions yet.
With it’s charismatic celebrity cast, enjoyable songs, and plentiful Haunted Mansion ride references, Muppets Haunted Mansion is a joyous celebration of Halloween for all the family.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★ / Movie: ★★★★
Lauren Miles is a freelance film and television journalist who loves all things gothic, fantasy and film noir. She has an MA in Multimedia Journalism and is also a Halloween enthusiast and cat lady. You can find her on Twitter @Lauren_M1les.