Haunted Mansion director Justin Simien has revealed that the film’s original darker ending was changed to better align with the story and respect Disney’s preferences. The decision to make the ending more hopeful was also made in order to avoid a tragic outcome for a Black character. Simien believes that a darker ending wouldn’t have worked well with the film’s comedic and adventure-driven tone and that the new ending allows for the possibility of a sequel.
Dark Ending of Haunted Mansion
In Haunted Mansion, the protagonist, Ben Matthias (played by LaKeith Stanfield), is mourning the death of his wife and helping Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) battle the malevolent Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto). Towards the end of the film, the Hatbox Ghost tries to deceive Ben into becoming the final soul he needs to gain ultimate power by promising him a reunion with his wife.
Initially, the film was set to have a darker ending, but after Stanfield was cast, the decision was made to make it more hopeful. Simien explains that he didn’t want to see a Black man meet a tragic end in a movie like this. He wanted the character to have hope, and a tragic ending for a Black character would have been hard to accept. Thus, a more hopeful ending was chosen, although Simien acknowledges that there may have been merit in the original darker version as well.
The hopeful ending of Haunted Mansion not only allows Harriet (Tiffiny Haddish) to banish the Hatbox Ghost with the help of an incantation from Madame Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis), but it also showcases the healing process that Ben goes through in the aftermath of his grief. The film ends with all the main characters alive and still friends, implying that they will continue their lives together.
The decision to have a more hopeful ending also aligns with the overall tone of the movie. Haunted Mansion combines elements of horror, comedy, and adventure, with a PG-13 rating. The scares in the film are more light-hearted and fun, making it suitable for families. A darker, less hopeful ending wouldn’t have been tonally consistent with the rest of the movie.
Furthermore, the more hopeful ending leaves the possibility of a sequel open. While it’s unknown whether a sequel will be made, having a tragic outcome for Ben would make it less appealing to continue the story in a Haunted Mansion 2. Thus, the hopeful ending not only serves the current film but also sets up potential future installments.
In conclusion, it was important for Haunted Mansion to have a hopeful ending that reflected the story and respected Disney’s preferences. This decision was made to avoid a tragic outcome for a Black character and to maintain the film’s comedic and adventure-driven tone. Additionally, the more hopeful ending leaves room for a potential sequel.