This review is spoiler-free.
Synopsis: On Halloween night, Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in the Haunted Mansion.
Inspired by all four of Disney’s Haunted Mansion attractions, and featuring plenty of horror and Disney Easter Eggs, this marks the Muppets’ first-ever Halloween special! But is it any good?
Well, first of all, it’s the Muppets – so it will always be good! Even the weakest Muppets offerings over the years have some redeeming qualities – such is the power of the Muppets! But in terms of a Halloween special, I think this ticks plenty of boxes for both a family and an adult audience to enjoy. The overall story is solid, and there are plenty of jokes and scares throughout that helps supplement the main narrative.
While, for me, it’s all about the practical Muppets and set pieces, there is a nice blend of practical and digital effects to balance each other out nicely. Of course there are times when the composite shots are obvious, but it’s not badly done, so it doesn’t ever take you out of the scene or moment. The overall aesthetic is very visually striking and consistent throughout the film, and it is very clear that the set designer and cinematographer worked together to complement each other’s work.
In terms of the main (human) cast, Will Arnett (The Ghost Host) looked like he had a lot of fun in his role and really camped up his performance! Although his gruff voice did slip into his LEGO Batman on more than one occasion! He also wears a killer moustache that Sam Elliot would be proud of! We also had Taraji P. Henson (Constance Hatchaway) whose role gets more interesting the more she is on screen. Supporting these two were Yvette Nicole Brown (Hearse Driver), who is always a joy to watch in anything! And Darren Criss (The Caretaker), who gets more than enough time to flex is musical muscles! There were also some other special guest stars, who had cameo roles as ghosts and busts, including the late Ed Asner, Danny Trejo, Alfonso Riberiro, Sasheer Zamata, Craig Robinson, Pat Sajak and Justina Machado to name but a few.
When it comes to the music, there are two big showpiece songs that really stand out – ‘Rest in Piece’ and ‘Life Hereafter’, with the former performed wonderfully by Darren Criss. The musical elements really help to add an extra layer to the overall enjoyment of the special. Away from the songs, the rest of the score and the great use of sound really helped to build that spooky feel, so credit to Ed Mitchell and Steve Morrell for doing a great job with the sound design!
Even though Muppets Haunted Mansion never reaches the heights of The Muppet Christmas Carol or Muppet Treasure Island, it is still a really enjoyable film and I think it is something that I will definitely add into my annual Halloween roster of ‘things to watch in October’.
With a plethora of slapstick-gags for the kids and plenty of horror references for adults, Muppets Haunted Mansion is a fun, musical-spooktacular that is perfect for all the family!