HAUNTED MANSION*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film starts at a party in New Orleans. Astrophysicist Ben Matthias (Lakeith Stanfield) meets Alyssa (Charity Jordan), who provides ghost tours around the area. They fall in love and form a relationship, ending with them getting married. Cut to years later, where Ben is now alone and drinking, and Alyssa is implied to be dead. He continues her ghost tours after giving up his job and acts rudely to the guests when they ask questions about ghosts.
At the nearby Gracey Manor, a woman named Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) moves in with her son Travis (Chase W. Dillon) to turn the place into a bed-and-breakfast. When Travis goes to explore the rooms, he turns on his flashlight and comes face-to-face with the ghost of a bride (Lindsay Lamb), who freaks Travis out. He goes to tell Gabbie about it, who doesn’t believe him until a suit of armor walks up behind him, forcing them to run away. One of the spirits, the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto), laughs and says they will return.
Ben is visited by Father Kent (Owen Wilson), who was asked by Gabbie to find someone to take pictures of the ghosts for proof. Ben initially refuses until he learns that Gabbie is paying $2000. Ben arrives at the mansion with a special lens that he created. Gabbie shows him all the rooms where the ghosts might be but he mostly pretends to take pics because he thinks it’s a big joke.
When Ben returns to his apartment, he finds strange occurrences, such as wet footprints following him around, and when he opens his closet door, he finds an entire ocean and a boat in there, spewing water (and a harpoon) at him. Ben realizes he was followed by the ghost of a sea captain (Creek Wilson) before he returns to Gabbie and Travis, who were expecting him to return since the ghosts followed them outside the mansion as well. Ben also finds that Kent has experienced the exact same thing. He then shows the group a picture that he took with a lens he developed that captures dark matter, where he sees the sea captain’s ghost. Ben agrees to stay in the mansion until he figures out why the ghosts want them there. When he tries to go to his room, he is followed by a malicious ghost that says “he” will be happy to take Ben’s soul.
Kent wants to make a “dream team” to figure out how to solve their ghost problem. With Ben’s help, they speak to Professor Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito), an expert in paranormal happenings. Through his investigations, he has learned about the history of Gracey Manor and its original owner, William Gracey (J.R. Adduci), as well as how things started getting weird after Gracey’s wife Eleanor died of yellow fever. When Bruce wants to go to the mansion, Ben tells him no, so he tries to hide his documents until Ben and Kent try to pry them from him, and they end up getting burned.
The guys also visit a medium named Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), who initially seems like a phony, but Kent believes she actually has a gift. Harriet visits the mansion and gives her own assessment of the hauntings, even saying that she detects a grieving spirit in the room, before she leaves, and then returns two hours later because ghosts followed her. Meanwhile, Ben has set up cameras around the mansion to capture more paranormal activity.
Harriet organizes a seance with Ben, Kent, Gabbie, and Travis. They try to summon Gracey’s spirit, but he only grabs a pen and paper and writes “Talk to Leota”. When Harriet tries to summon Leota, the spirits act against her and push her out of the mansion and into a pile of mud. Bruce then drives up to the mansion to try and get in on the ghost action, only to receive the same treatment and get pushed away even further from the grounds, nearly getting hit by a truck. He is hospitalized but Ben and Gabbie take him out when the captain’s ghost causes a distraction at the hospital.
At night, the Hatbox Ghost tries to lure Ben out by conjuring an illusion of Alyssa’s spirit walking through the mansion and then outside before she pulls a nightmare face. The others wake him up when Bruce goes missing, but after they find him, he suggests they look for Leota in the attic. Ben goes up there and finds an old chest before the ghost bride tries to go for him with an axe.
The group opens the chest and finds a crystal ball containing the spirit of Madame Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis), a former medium that Gracey had sought help from. Leota tells them that Gracey contacted her after Eleanor’s death to try and speak with her. They tried a seance every midnight for a year, which opened up the room for other ghosts to come through. One such spirit posed as Eleanor and wrote to Gracey, convincing him to join her on the other side, which led to him committing suicide before Leota could stop him. The Hatbox Ghost then pulled Leota into the crystal ball and trapped her there. Leota tells the group that he needs 1000 souls to free himself from the mansion and gain full power, and he is only missing one more soul. Harriet comes up with a plan to create a banishment spell, which Leota says will work if they have an item that belonged to him in the past, but Hatbox Ghost stops them from finishing their plan.
The group starts making preparations for a reverse-seance, where Harriet will enter the ghost realm and try to banish Hatbox Ghost. Meanwhile, Ben talks to Gabbie, who mentions that Travis’s dad is no longer in the picture, making Ben think they split up. He bonds with Travis, who tells him he still talks to his dad.
When the reverse-seance takes place, Ben is the one to enter the ghost realm. He sees Gracey’s spirit and follows him, seeing other trapped spirits. Gracey blames himself for what happened and begs Ben to not let Hatbox Ghost get his last soul. Hatbox then shows up to taunt Ben and briefly possess him until Gabbie is able to snap him out of it. Ben relays his discoveries to the group and mentions that Hatbox promised to give him what he wants. Ben then tells the group about what happened to Alyssa and how she passed away in a car accident after they had a less-than-pleasant final conversation, and Harriet realizes Ben was the grieving spirit. Ben briefly has a breakdown until Bruce lightens the mood with a joke.
Since Ben has seen Hatbox Ghost’s face, Bruce comes up with an idea to go with Ben to see a sketch artist (Hasan Minhaj) to try and draw Hatbox from memory, and then add skin to his face. This helps them find out that his true identity was Alistair Crump, the son of a cruel and wealthy tycoon who shunned him from his home after the death of Alistair’s mother. After his father died, Alistair inherited his wealth and estate, and held many parties for those in high society that turned their backs on him. Alistair had these people killed and hid their bodies before his staff turned on him and beheaded him. Crump Manor has been deemed a historical landmark now turned into a B&B, so the group thinks they may find an artifact of Crump’s to banish him.
When Crump learns that the group knows his backstory, he tries to get the mansion to swallow them up. While the others run for it, Ben gets Travis out to safety before joining Kent. They try to drive out, but the trees in the forest come to life and try to attack them.
Ben, Kent, and Travis (and the captain’s ghost) arrive at Crump Manor, which is holding tours led by Pat (Winona Ryder) and Vic (Daniel Levy). While the group is distracted, the three sneak off with the captain’s help and find a basement that Travis has to go through. He finds Crump’s skull covered by his top hat, which he grabs and runs away from.
When they return to the mansion, Travis stays in the car while Crump possesses Bruce to try and trick Ben and Kent into drinking poison, while Harriet and Gabbie have been tied up. After being freed, Harriet tries to use the hat to perform the banishment spell, but Crump flies out of Bruce’s body and throws the hat into the fireplace. Meanwhile, Travis thinks he is talking to his father’s spirit (Gabbie reveals to Ben that he’s been dead for about a year), and he is lured to the basement by Crump, who was manipulating him the same way he manipulated Gracey. Ben manages to stop Travis just in time before Crump sends the other ghosts to go after the group.
Kent manages to get the ghosts on his side to turn against Crump while Harriet goes to free Madame Leota to help with the banishment spell. Crump corners the others outside in the graveyard with his ghost army until Ben offers himself up to be the final soul. Crump appears to promise him he can see Alyssa again, but just as the rest of the heroes come outside, Ben reveals it was all to buy him time. Bruce appears with what’s left of the hat and gives it to Leota and Harriet. They begin to banish Crump back into his grave to the underworld. He pleads with Ben to not let it happen so that Alyssa can know he truly loved her, but Ben says she already knows and kicks Crump in the face, pulling him back to Hell for good. Leota returns to her crystal ball while most of the other ghosts choose not to cross over.
Afterwards, Harriet convinces herself she is a true medium, while Kent goes on to become a real ordained minister, and Bruce relishes his new friendships. When Ben goes back to his apartment, he finds and adopts a stray cat named Tater Tot, which was Alyssa’s favorite snack, so he takes it as a sign that she is looking out for him.
Later on, Ben goes to a party at the mansion, where Harriet, Bruce, and Kent join him, Gabbie, Travis, and the rest of the ghosts. Meanwhile, Ben and Travis bring the captain’s ghost to the sea as he requested so that he can steal a boat.
Mother and son Gabbie and Travis inherit the haunted Gracey Mansion, home to nearly 1000 ghosts. They seek help from retired astrophysicist Ben Matthias, who is still grieving the loss of his wife Alyssa, along with a priest named Father Kent, a medium named Harriet, and a professor/paranormal expert named Bruce to try and find out what the ghosts want.
The mansion is haunted by Alistair Crump/The Hatbox Ghost, a former tycoon who killed those in high society out of revenge for them and his father turning their backs on him when he was young. After Crump's death, he vowed revenge and now needs the thousandth soul to reach full power and leave the mansion. Madame Leota tells them of a banishment spell using an item that belonged to Crump in life to try and stop him.
After finding Crump's hat, Kent gets the ghosts to turn on Crump while Harriet teams up with Leota to perform the spell. While Crump tries to convince Ben to help him so he can see Alyssa again, Ben kicks Crump into his grave where he is pulled back to Hell for good.
Ben is able to move on from Alyssa's death and remains close with his new friends, while the ghosts decide to stay at the mansion now that they are on good terms with Gabbie and Travis.