Have you ever stumbled across one of those films that while you’re watching it the only thing that you can think is “This movie, this is about me. It could have been made for me”? See, I always used to think that me and my dad were the only people obsessed with, and by, The Haunted Mansion and it’s macabre and quirky combination of dark ride, illusion, story-telling, comedy, animatronics and gothic horror. But I was wrong. So very, very wrong and the last time, and the first without my dad, I rode through it’s hallways in a Doom Buggy and spent some time basking in its gloomy glory (and mainly thanks to Memento Mori), it struck me that there was a whole sub-culture of fandom that was just as captivated by, and fixated upon, The Haunted Mansion as I was, and am.
That was my lightning bolt moment, like someone had switched on cobweb covered bulb in the middle of my brain, and it opened the door to a world of books*, art, sites and podcasts dedicated to the attraction that meant even though I was half a world away from it, I could still indulge my Haunted Mansion infatuation whenever I wanted to. And then I heard through the mystical grapevine** that James H. Carter III, the host of Creepy Kingdom***, was directing a documentary about the Mansion and I knew that I had to see it. Somehow, someway, I had to see Foolish Mortals and nearly twelve months later, I finally got my wish. It was worth waiting for. Like I said some films make you feel like they were made just for you. And Foolish Mortals is one of those movies.
The Haunted Mansion, along with Pirates of the Caribbean, dwells at the centre of the dark heart of Disney; after all, you can’t have light without a little darkness. That said, the Mansion takes something as terrifying as death and mortality and the idea of the afterlife and transforms them into an enthralling, animated and whimsical exploration of the stygian fate that awaits us all. Juxtaposing scares with comedy and fear with laughter, it’s an all ages Haunted House that everyone can, and for the most part, does enjoy. James H. Carter III’s film captures the essence of the Mansion’s appeal perfectly as it explores its history, the fandom that surrounds it and lets the fans who are devoted to tell their Mansion-centric stories.
From some of the more famous names associated with the mansion, such as former Imagineers Rolly Crump (who helped design and build the Mansion) and Jason Surrell, Peter Rennaday (the voice of the Ghost Host on The Story of the Haunted Mansion LP) and Jeff Baham (the founder of DoomBuggies.com, author, Mansion historian and host of the DoomBuggies Spook Show and Mousetalgia) though to the cosplayers, writers, film makers, collectors and artists who have been inspired by the Mansion, Foolish Mortals tells the story of the ride and the lives of just some of the many people who have thoroughly embraced it’s grim grinning magic. It’s an intimate, immediate and incredibly personal examination of fandom and the impact that one of the centrepieces of Walt Disney’s parks has had on those who lose themselves in its innocent, mysterious and spooky charm and whether you’re familiar with the home of the nine hundred and ninety nine happy haunts or not, you can’t help but be gripped by the infectious sense of fun that fills every frame of Foolish Mortals. And like the institution that inspired it, once you’ve been exposed to Foolish Mortals, you’ll keep coming back for more. Hurry back… Tim Cundle
*Namely Jeff Baham’s The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion , Jason Surrell’s The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic and Marvel’s The Haunted Mansion
** And by mystical grapevine I mean the DoomBuggies Spook Show
*** Which you can listen to here