Haunted Mansion Is Now On Disney+, But I'm Annoyed Two Underrated Spooky Disney Films Are Still Missing

 Jamie Lee Curtis glowing inside a crystal ball in Haunted Mansion.
Jamie Lee Curtis glowing inside a crystal ball in Haunted Mansion.
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Disney’s new Haunted Mansion movie wasn’t a box office hit; in fact, it's actually a bigger flop than the Eddie Murphy version based on its theatrical release. However, the new Haunted Mansion is, without question, a better film than its 2003 predecessor, and that’s something that more people will become aware of now that the movie is available to stream on Disney+.

As somebody who loved the new Haunted Mansion movie and all its references to the Haunted Mansion attraction I also enjoy, I certainly hope the movie finds the fans it deserves on Disney+. However, as somebody who apparently has something of a habit of loving spooky movies from Disney, the fact that there are now two Haunted Mansion movies streaming on the service makes it that much more annoying that there are two excellent and underappreciated Disney “horror” movies that you still can’t watch on the Mouse House's streaming service.

Jonathan Pryce keeps a grip on Vidal Peterson and Shawn Carson in Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Jonathan Pryce keeps a grip on Vidal Peterson and Shawn Carson in Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Something Wicked This Way Comes Is The Perfect Gateway To Horror

In 1983, Disney adapted Something Wicked This Way Comes, a novel by Ray Bradbury. In the early ‘80s, Disney was in a difficult period as a studio. The company’s most recent animated features had failed to find much of an audience, and nothing the company did in live-action had ever really worked. An attempt was made to go against the traditional image and try to make movies with more mature themes, and Bradbury’s novel seemed like a perfect fit.

The story focuses on two young boys who realize something is amiss when a carnival comes to town that's led by the not-subtly named Mr. Dark, played by a younger and relatively unknown Jonathan Pryce. The film is by no means a horror movie; there’s more frightful imagery on the screen than most Disney films, but it’s still tame by even contemporary horror standards.

The movie was also plagued by production issues, which resulted in director Jack Clayton, who had been suggested as director by Bradbury himself, being taken off the project. There’s a version of the film the world will probably never see, and yet the version we have isn’t without its own charms. The feeling that a great horror movie gives you permeates the film, as it feels dark and disturbing from the start. At least, that’s what I remember, as it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to watch it.

I remember just how the movie unnerved me. There was nothing overtly terrifying on the screen, but there was a feeling of menace that I found hard to shake even after it was over. My own kids are a bit too young for scary movies, but when they get old enough for them, this is where I'd like to start.

Bette Davis in Watcher in the Woods
Bette Davis in Watcher in the Woods

The Watcher In The Woods Is Disney At Its Weirdest

Three years before Something Wicked This Way Comes, Disney produced a film called The Watcher in the Woods, which is possibly creepier, absolutely stranger and, without a doubt, more fraught with issues. The film is even more of a cult classic, as the general critical consensus is that it isn’t very good, but where else are you going to find a Disney movie where Bette Davis plays the village crazy lady?

The Watcher in the Woods focuses on two young girls whose parents move them to England, where something strange seems to be happening. Years before, a young girl disappeared in the local woods, and the girls see an apparition of a blindfolded girl in the same woods. Davis plays the missing girl’s mother in what would be one of her final roles.

The Watcher in the Woods was so critically panned upon its initial limited release that the movie was pulled from theaters in New York and the ending was reshot. Still, it’s not like it would be the only movie available to view on Disney+ that wasn’t a massive hit, and there are those who have fond memories of the film regardless of its alleged quality. For many, it was the first scary movie they had ever seen.

Jonathan Pryce leadiing parade in Something Wicked This Way Comes
Jonathan Pryce leadiing parade in Something Wicked This Way Comes

Why Are We Still Missing These, And Other Films, On Disney+?

Not seeing these 40-year-old films on Disney+ is, unfortunately, not all that surprising. While Disney+ does better than some streaming services when it comes to listing older material (there are almost 100 years of cartoons to be found, after all), there is still a lot of content that has never been added to Disney+, and the older it is, the more likely it is to be MIA.

There are some reasons why this might be the case. Much of this older material may only exist in a format that is not easily upload-able to Disney+. A lot of the stuff you can’t find on Disney+ has never been seen on DVD, much less Blu-ray, and so it certainly takes time to convert media to digital formats. With that comes upscaling it or otherwise updating it to make decades-old TV or movies still look as good as possible on modern televisions.

That’s not the case when it comes to these films, however. Something Wicked This Way Comes and Watcher in the Woods were both released on DVD and even on Blu-ray (though there’s some question regarding how much was done to actually upscale the movie for the HD format). But even so, there’s plenty of older movies and shows on Disney+ right now that hasn’t been upconverted to look as beautiful as possible.

Now would be the perfect time to see movies like Something Wicked This Way Comes and Watcher in the Woods added to Disney+. It is the spooky season, after all, and the platform has a lot of great content for Halloween that will still give you the atmosphere you’re looking for without being truly terrifying.

The new Haunted Mansion is a fantastic addition to DIsney+, and its October release is all but certain to get the movie more viewers than it got during its summer theatrical release. It’s the perfect blend of humor and horror, just like the Disneyland ride that inspired it. But there are some Disney movies that would be even better to watch on Halloween, and I hope that someday soon we actually get to see them.