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Belittling Horror Excessively: Haunted Mansion01:55 PM -- Thu October 19, 2017

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Haunted Mansion (2015)
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“A group of young people on retreat in a remote house find themselves haunted by a restless spirit.”
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, N/A audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 3.5/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So let’s hear it… why did Haunted Mansion (not starring Eddie Murphy) call to you?

Solee: It was time for a foreign film! There’s a new level of fear that comes from watching foreign horror for me. I think it’s because it’s not playing to the same old tropes and traditions as horror done by American filmmakers. There’s a different collective cultural background at work--one I’m not familiar with--and that makes everything a little less expected. It raises the anxiety level.

Mikey: I always find it interesting to try out foreign movies. This is the first Filipino movie we’ve done in all of BHE history (that I can recall, anyway). The most interesting, and enjoyable, thing about it that I can recall is how they constantly switch between Filipino and English. That never stopped being fun for me.

Solee: Not knowing enough about the Filipino language and culture, I don’t know if that’s common or if that was supposed to provide us with information of some kind. I did notice that the “mean girls” spoke a lot more English than the others.

Mikey: Yes, a clear sign of evil. And mean girls brings me to the gist of the movie: This was a high school teen romance drama, which happened to have a ghost (or three) nearby. Am I right!?

Solee: Yes! It wasn’t until very close to the end that I realized this was one of those movies with a big teenaged cast that gets picked off one by one. I was so distracted by all the unfamiliar bits that I missed that it was exactly like all the stupid teen horror movies we always laugh at. Turns out I like it a lot better when it’s not stupid American teens.

Mikey: Well, I noticed that thing going on, but it was a little different because it was so focused on the teen drama. They weren’t just bodies for the ghost to eat, the movie was much more concerned with who was going to end up with who (before they died and solved that question).

Solee: Little Ella was quite the popular girl. She was very much written as the archetypal “perfect girl”. She was modest and pretty and kind. She had no flaws, aside from her ability to see ghosts, which was really a good thing she just hadn’t learned to appreciate yet. We’ve moved away from that kind of pure character in American storytelling. We like our heroes to be flawed like the mother in The Monster.

Mikey: Yeah… I actually do. The Mary Sue character is not the most creative concept. I liked her, but she was dumb. I liked her friend Faye more, with her *slow clap*. You seemed to enjoy her as well. What’d you think about the various players in our angsty drama?

Solee: There were quite a few typical teen drama horror characters I recognized. Megan and her friends were the mean girls, as we already mentioned. Faye was the quirky gal-pal. I did like her a lot. She was sarcastic in a humorous way. The two boys who were in love with Ella fit the popular boy and nerdy boy roles nicely. Even the peripheral characters filled roles with the player and the two girls who found out they were being played. It is funny to see that teenagers are teenagers regardless of culture to a great extent.

Mikey: There was a lot of legit-funny stuff in here. Not so much that it’s a comedy, but I suppose much like the American equivalent movie - characters being funny before they get murdered. But again, mostly coming from Faye.

Solee: I really wonder how much of this movie was supposed to be funny and how much was accidental. Horror movies are notorious for that and not understanding the traditions of a culture’s humor and horror leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. What if this is the Filipino equivalent of the Scream movies? Meant to be ridiculous.

Mikey: That’s a good theory. Because the part of the movie that was not so impressive was the ghosts. Especially the evil ghost who literally laughed constantly. She could do nothing except laugh. I thought that was really stupid, but if it was meant as a satire on regular horror instead of just something dumb, it’s pretty good. The nuances of foreign films!

Solee: I thought the special effects for the ghosts were pretty good, though. They were elaborate and didn’t have the cheesy look of cheap CGI. It all looked very professional. Same with the setting of the movie. I wanted to just wander around in this mansion looking at all the details.

Mikey: I did like the ghost of the guy who had been burned alive, all aglow with cinders. That was cool. But speaking of the mansion, you lead to my big question: what on Earth was the point of this “retreat”? It was neither fun nor educational. So why were they doing a field trip to this place? It was like “here’s an opportunity for you all to … sit around and be ordered to do stuff, but not school stuff.” Sign me up!

Solee: I got the sense that it was a parochial school of some kind. They were on a self-improvement retreat. The “Father” kept asking them to spend time with their own thoughts and list their blessings and atone for past wrongs. That reminds me of another aspect that stood out as different from the horror films we normally watch: there was a real sense that religious faith could truly protect them. The ghosts were definitely stopped in their tracks by real faith. That pretty much only shows up in possession movies in America and even then it’s often subverted to say that faith doesn’t work.

Mikey: Definitely a Catholic school. I guess it was a religious trip, which the kids did not seem to into. I did notice the crosses and such being effective, although not effective enough, it turns out. I wonder if that was just vague “Jesus Vs. Ghosts” mumbo-jumbo, or if it’s the actual mythology of ghosts in the Philippines. Definitely a more religious country than ours though, so it makes sense for that to be a background to the whole thing.

Solee: That’s what I thought.

Mikey: Though crosses or no crosses, I found it frustrating that the ghost could kill anybody in two seconds, except Ella, who she had to chase for hours and didn’t seem to even have the strength to hold her in place when she did get her claws on her. That was pure Protagonist Magic.

Solee: And I think there’s maybe a different approach to the scary vs plot aspect. There was a whole first scene that clearly demonstrated the scary, scary ghosts but told us NOTHING about who they were and had nothing to do with main plot OR the background plot as far as I could tell. Just an opportunity for them to SLAM us with ghosts right off the bat. And then at the end we had what felt like a very complete resolution followed by a whole lot of chasing and scariness again. It felt intentional and formulaic, but not the formula I’m used to.

Mikey: Oh I saw formula I am used to… we had the final ‘twist’ where you know the ghost isn’t really dead (not the whole final chase, but just the eyes at the end). So classic horror, and never makes any sense. So dumb. But I am very happy with this movie for actually ending instead of cutting off mid-sentence like certain movies. The bit at the beginning though… I guess it was just the usual setup scene: here is the haunted house, it is scary, look for it later, we’ll be back! Always kind of forced. I did like the actual twist-of-sorts, where we discover the rape story is not true, and the ghost has a very specific goal of keeping word from getting out. That is a ghost I like - motivation and logic.

Solee: I liked that reveal as well, but I had a bit of an issue with how it actually changed the story. In the beginning, we were told that Veronica was raped and became pregnant. She hung herself in shame and the people of the mansion killed Jaime in retribution. Later, once it’s revealed that Jaime didn’t rape her, that Jaime and Veronica were actually in love, the order gets changed. Veronica turns up pregnant, Amara lies about it and causes the people of the mansion to kill Jaime, and then Veronica hangs herself out of sorrow. You can’t have it both ways!

Mikey: I can see that, but on the other hand, it’s an old story. The details could be muddled, and what we thought was true was just off a bit.

Solee: Valid point.

Mikey: I did take issue with Dona Amara’s theory that her sister needed to marry somebody high-falutin’ in order to enrich/ennoble her family. If she’s so into all that nobility, then she should marry some prince. I mean, she’d like it! That was her whole thing. She didn’t even have any real interest in the poolboy. She would’ve gotten along great with Megan.

But hey, we need to get going to our next engagement (to be explained in a moment)... so would you like to rate this movie now?

Solee: I don’t know if it’s the actual movie itself or seeing it through the filter of another culture, but I enjoyed this movie a lot. It kept me very engaged and entertained. I spent a lot of time wishing I could spend a month living in that house (if it weren’t haunted). It seems like a good place to get some interesting writing done. So I’m going to give it a 4.

Mikey: It’s interesting that you liked the mansion so much. I didn’t even really register it, it was just the location. I’d much rather go live in the house that the guy Leaved D.C. for (again, if it weren’t haunted). As for the movie, I really felt the teen drama here. The ghost business felt almost tangential (less so toward the end, of course, as gummy tongues began to be ripped out). So with that not being my preferred area of interest, yet enjoying Buffyesque quips and such, it’s not my favorite. But it was fun nonetheless. So I will go a little lower with a 3.5 from me.

Solee: Ugh. Gummy tongues. Whhhhyyyyyy?

Mikey: And with the ratings dished out, we shall dash out to the theater once again to witness another movie on its opening day! That’s twice in one year, which is a BHE record! Join us tomorrow when we discuss our opinions of Happy Death Day.
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