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THE HAUNTED MANSION

movie trailer (apple.com - quicktime)

NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Renee V who says... This movie really wasn't very good. If you're going to watch it you should make it a rental.

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The movie opens with a scene montage of what looks like a late nineteenth century masquerade ball in a mansion in the Louisiana Bayou. Through creepy music, and unsettling masks, you piece together the story of a dashingly handsome man and a woman whose face you never see. She has given him a letter, the contents of which distress him so much that he runs to her rooms. She's dead; presumably she poisoned herself. He's dramatically distraught over this, and after throwing a temper tantrum, kills himself. This all happens in a creepy looking mansion at the turn of the century.

Fast forward to the present. A paper boy rides his bike up an overgrown path to the locked gates of the derelict and abandoned Gracey Mansion. He stares, awed. Something from the house, a transparent apparition accompanied by wind, slams into him, and he screams and turns around, riding away, dumping a collection of adviretisements. The adviretisement shows pictures of Jim and Sara Evers, of Evers and Evers Real Estate.

The next scene shows Jim [Eddie Murphy] selling a finicky couple a potential house.

He's good at his job, and as revealed by a phone conversation he has with his wife about his anniversary dinner that evening, he's kind of a sleaze ball, sacrificing most of his private life for his professional. This is truly hammered home when, at a bar closing a deal, he is approached by additional potential clients, fully realizes he'll be ditching his wife if he keeps talking to them, and then keeps talking to them. Later that night, he goes home to his waiting and angry wife, and gives her a teddy bear and an expensive gold watch. She doesn't accept it so much as he puts it on her. (Important) She's still irritated, so he says 'let's go to the lake and spend the whole weekend there.'

His son calls him upstairs to kill a spider. After a long exchange about how Michael needs to kill his own spiders, Megan, his older sister, kills the spider.

Downstairs, Sara gets a call from a creepy sounding voice. It says that she should come tomorrow to a specific address to discuss selling a house. The voice pointedly states that she should come alone, since judging by their pictures, Jim Evers looks like a sleaze. Sara makes the statement that "oh, you must have seen our flyers," which was actually pretty funny. Sara says she can't this weekend, maybe Monday, because she's going on vacation. Jim comes up behind her sees the address she wrote down, and gets really excited. He says it's a dream property. One that could put them on easy street. He convinces her
to agree.

The next day, they drive out to the mansion, the whole family, for a "quick twenty minutes." The locked gate mysteriously opens for them and slams shut after them. They park the car, and notice that the house is in disrepair, and the sideyard is an extensive graveyard. It starts to rain, suddenly, and they all rush into the house. There they are met by a ghostly butler, Ramsley [played by Terrance Pratt]. He is pale and very creepy. Jim Evers makes a transition from sleaze to big moron with no manners with grace and aplomb. Sara takes over after a certain point before he digs himself too deep.

He takes them to the dining room. They all have dinner, and meet Mr. Gracey, a young man with impressively high cheekbones and chalky skin. Mr. Gracey explains that he wishes to sell the house because it holds bad memories for him. The whole meal (lasts about two minutes) Jim Evers is a completely rude sleaze, but Mr. Gracey is too busy constantly instensely staring at Sara Evers. She seems a little unsettled by this, but keeps smiling. Then Ramsley comes in and says that the river by the house is flooded, the road out is impassable, and they must spend the night.

After being shown to their rooms, Jim and Sara get into an argument. Sara is upset because they're stuck there for the night when they should be at the lake. She blames Jim because Jim insisted they should go and now they're in a nasty situation. Jim replies that she's only mad when he isn't buying her expensive presents with all the money he earns. Sara takes off the watch he gave her, tosses it at him, and locks herself in the bathroom.

Ramsley knocks as Jim is talking to the bathroom door, and tells Jim to meet Mister Gracey in the library. Jim tells Sara he'll go, even though they're in the middle of an argument, because hey, it's a job. He goes to the library, where he and Ramsley exchange more embarassing banter. Ramsley leaves, Jim pokes his head around, steals a cigar and matches, and then finds a secret passage. He goes in and it shuts behind him.

Meanwhile, Michael and Megan find a floating blue spirit and follow it up to the attic. It brings them to a junk room where they find a portrait of a pretty woman from another era who looks just like their mom. They're found by a manservant and a maid. The manservant and maid are very odd, but eventually the maid reveals that the woman is Elizabeth, the dead woman who Master Gracey loved. The two servants hid the children when Ramsley comes by, saying that the children are missing. Ramsley makes all these comments saying how they must be found, that the maid and manservant shouldn't be lazy, and how he hates talking to that buffoon, Jim Evers. He makes an ominous comment about Sara too, hinting at the obvious fate intended for her.

Sara leaves the bathroom. She tries to find Jim. Instead she finds Ramsley. Ramsley brings her to Mister Gracey. Mister Gracey continues to stare at her with bizarre familiarity (the fact that she is already married makes all these scenes way more unsettling than they ought to be. Gracey comes off as a slightly crazy idiot.) and tells her about the history of the house, Elizabeth, and the man who loved her. He asks her if she thinks love is about second chances. Sara, obviously thinking of Jim, gives a painful laugh, and agrees.

Jim, meanwhile, has found the "gypsy woman" who resides in the crystal ball in a room, by wandering out of the hidden passage and into the attic. The woman hints at all these dire things, and does the scene from the trailer where Jim spins around saying 'don't you go raising no dead spirits.' He runs out, bothered, finds his kids, the maid and the manservant. The maid and the manservant explain that they're ghosts. At their insistence, he returns to the glass ball. The glass gypsy ball tells them they have to go to the graveyard and find a key. That will tell them all. Jim explains how he doesn't really care. Once it is made clear to him that Mister Gracey "wants to get jiggy with his wife," and the way to make the truth (not explained at the time) known, and rest the ghosts, is to find the key. He then agrees.

They go to the graveyard, (maid, manservant, Megan, Jim, and Michael), and find the family crypt. The graveyard is populated by a massive number of benevolent ghosts. The maid and manservant explain that all of them are stuck in limbo until the Gracey curse is lifted. At the crypt, Michael decides to wait outside. Megan and Jim go in, down a long flight of stairs, and into a massive room to open a black coffin. They pull the key out of the hands of a dead woman. (Presumably Elizabeth. Never made clear.) Then Jim drops the key into water (which is in the crypt. The crypt is roughly the size of a subway station. There are probably over 100 bodies in the crypt. It doesn't really make any sense.) and the corpses start coming to life. Jim tells Megan to find it. She does. They run up the stairs, pursued by the slow moving but hostile walking dead. The door slams shut right before they get there. Fortunately, young Michael is on the other side. Unfortunately, giant tarantulas come poring out of the walls, covering the door. Michael looks like he's (justifiably) about to wet his pants. Each spider is the size of his ten-year-old hand.

Jim, without explaining why he and the screaming Megan want out beyond general 'task finished' reasons, tell him he needs to open the door. After a few moments, he goes ahead and does it, getting covered with spiders, which they brush off of him.

They return to the house, and tell the ball they have the key. The gypsy in the ball says now they have to find the trunk. Jim gets pissed, suggesting that this would be easier if she just told them what was going on, and eventually just picks up the ball and takes it with him. He, the children, the maid and manservant, all go back to the junk room, easily locate the trunk in question, open it with the key, and Jim finds a letter.

The letter, which has never been read, says something along the lines of "My dearest, I gladly accept your proposal of marriage... let us live in happiness and etc. etc... Elizabeth." The maid exclaims that Elizabeth had originally refused the pledge of marriage, but if this letter is real, then the other must have been fake. But who would have done such a thing?

Ramsley then makes another fortuitously timed appearance. When confronted with the letter (which Ramsley does not take away) Ramsley says that the marriage would've been bad for Mister Gracey. So Ramsley poisoned Elizabeth, and wrote another letter. Jim tells Ramsley that Sara is not Elizabeth. Ramsley insists that she'll do for his purposes, and then explains that his purposes are to marry Sara to Mister Gracey and then kill her, so that they can all finally pass into the world of the dead, since "it had been prophesized that when Elizabeth returned, they would all move on." Ramsley explains that it would've been much easier if he and his children hadn't come.

Jim tries to punch Ramsley but it doesn't work. Ramsley traps Jim's kids in the trunk, banishes the maid and manservant, and throws Jim out the window. Jim lands on his car, and watches as all the windows lock up. He tries to break in but the house repairs itself.

Meanwhile, inside, Mister Gracey has pretty much snapped, and insists to Sara that she is Elizabeth and she must surely remember. Surely she has returned to be his wife! Sara says no and runs away from him. She finds Ramsley in her room. She begs for his help finding her husband and explaining to Mister Gracey that she's not his dead wife. Ramsley explains that there will be a wedding. And Mister Gracey will be her husband unless she wants her children to die. The fight goes out of Sara. Ramsley gives her a wedding dress and tells her to put it on and be happy unless she wants him to kill her kids.

Ramsley then shows up next to Mister Gracey, whose resolve is shaken. (Because this wasn't a crazy idea to begin with.) "Elizabeth doesn't remember," he explains to Ramsley. Ramsley assures Mister Gracey that she will remember, given time.

Back outside the house, Jim is crying by the car. The gypsy ball (who knows how it got out there) rolls up to him. She gives him a pep talk. Jim breaks in by crashing his car through the greenhouse. He gets his kids out of the trunk after a heroic fight scene with animated knights in armor. Then they all run to the great hall where a creepy, underpopulated wedding is taking place. Ramsley is the pastor, marrying the two. Sara is crying and looks really ugly in Elizabeth's dress. But when it looks like Mister Gracey might call the whole thing off, Ramsley gives Sara that look that says 'be happy or else I'll kill your kids' and she starts saying things like 'yes my love' to Mister Gracey. She says 'I do' at the appropriate time, and a poisoned wine glass is handed to her.

As she has raised the goblet to her lips and is opening her mouth to drink, in comes Jim Evers and kids, waving the letter. Sara runs to Jim. Mister Gracey insists he's gone through too much to get her back and draws a sword, prepared to fight Jim. Jim hands him the letter. Gracey asks Ramsley what this is all about, after establishing that the letter is written in Elizabeth's hand. Ramsley says that he did what was right, even if Mister Gracey would never understand duty. There seems to be some suggestion that Ramsley will now make them all pay. Then, all of a sudden, a fiery pit of Hell opens up, a fire dragon rises out, grabs Ramsley, and hauls him into Hell. Ramsley tries to grab Jim, Jim is saved by Mister Gracey, and the pit to Hell closes.

Sara then falls to the ground. She drank the poisoned wine, and is now dying or dead. Jim insists she can't die, he loves her, and then a floating ball of light comes out of the ceiling, and brings Sara back to life. The ball is the spirit of Elizabeth. She and Mister Gracey are reunited, everyone goes on out of the spirit world, and Jim commits himself to not be such a sleaze.

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