Disney's Haunted Mansion theme park ride attracts families all year — but is the new film adaptation too scary for young kids?
Dear White People director Justin Simien takes a stab at adapting the spooky ride for the big screen, 20 years after Disney's film of the same name starring Eddie Murphy.
While the 2003 iteration was given a PG rating for "frightening images, thematic elements and language" at the time, the new one earned a PG-13 label, for "some thematic elements and scary action."
Haunted Mansion's star Rosario Dawson told PEOPLE earlier in July that she was hosting large screenings of the film — and some parents had to organize babysitters and leave their younger children at home.
"This one's a fun one and it's PG-13. The thing that was great about Eddie's was that it was PG, so a lot of my friends' kids could watch it a little younger. I'm having to get people to get babysitters to watch mine 'cause it's a little older. But it's good. It's a nice continuation of the theme and the world, but they're two very separate films."
Before deciding whether to see it with the whole family, here's what to know about Haunted Mansion, in theaters Friday, July 28. Warning: some spoilers ahead.
The plot deals with themes of death and grief
Understandably for a ghost story, much of the film is about death and grief. There is an emotional scene in which LaKeith Stanfield's character Ben reveals that his wife Alyssa (Charity Jordan) died in a car crash. For most of the movie, Stanfield's character struggles in the aftermath of Alyssa's death, and he's shown drinking to cope with it.
Additionally, one Haunted Mansion twist hinges on 9-year-old Travis (Chase Dillon) missing his late father, one year after his death.
The themes can be heavy at times but land messages of continuing on with life after terrible tragedies.
There are frightening moments throughout
Haunted Mansion, of course, dabbles in light horror elements during its two-hour runtime. While the scary moments can be startling and loud, most are not for sustained for long periods of time. Plus, comedic relief almost always follows these moments, quickly diffusing the scariness.
That being said, there are spooky, skeletal ghost effects, some brief and implied violence with weapons, and general haunted-house suspense: screaming spirits, dark hallways, graveyard imagery, etc. For comparison, think of movies like Coraline, ParaNorman and Hocus Pocus.
There are children in peril
While the adult cast is subjected to most of the scary instances, the only child character, 9-year-old Travis (played by Chase Dillon) is alone and in peril a few times, though no harm comes to him before the ultimately happy ending.
Also, the film's finale see Travis being lured to his death by the evil Hatbox ghost before the adults eventually save him.
Haunted Mansion opens in theaters Friday.