From CBS Films & Lionsgate comes the lone new release of the weekend, the horror film Winchester. Directed by The Spierig Brothers, who also scripted along Tom Vaughn, Winchester is inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, (Helen Mirren) heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end.
Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven -day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider, it looks to be a massive monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook) or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) whom she has summoned to the house.
She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters. I had never heard of the Winchester Mystery House until the announcement of the film last year. After studying a bit on the history of the house, I was naturally intrigued to see how the studio would handle the movie.
First & foremost I give credit to The Spierig Brothers and Tom Vaughn scripts for crafting a horror script that reminded of the gothic horror films that Hammer Film Productions produced back in the seventies. The opening title sequence put a smile on my face. I also enjoyed that the writers decided to use adults for the leads. The production team could have easily modernized this and added teenagers or gone for the found footage angle. By using adults, I was able to become invested in the story more and care what happened to the characters.
Helen Mirren is good at almost anything she does. While she may be on autopilot in the role of Sarah, she does it very well. There was never a moment in the film, where I found myself rooting against him, and the same goes for Clarke as Doctor Price. When we first meet Price, he comes off a drunken skirt chasing hustler, but as the film goes on, we learn why Price is the way he is.
While you’ll be able to see the plot, twist involving Price’s connection to the house coming, the execution in the reveal was sharp. While I found the film to be more creepy than scary, there are a few decent “got you” moments.
Winchester does have its flaws and that comes with the pacing of the film. The pacing is a bit slow in the film and given the PG-13 rating, younger viewers may be bored to tears. While I never found myself looking at my watch, I do think the marketing could’ve taken a different angle. I also found myself wanting to know more about all the spirits in the house. Had the film been a series and fleshed out more than my rating may be a bit higher.
If you’re a history buff, then I recommend checking Winchester in the theater, but if you’re looking for a scare fest, then I would skip it.
Final Grade: C