Winchester has all the potential for a great movie. It comes with the three H’s: Horror, Haunted House, and Helen Mirren. If any of you remember the trailer, it had everything it needed to be a successful flick. With the Spierig Brothers behind the lens, I was looking forward to getting the bejeezus scared out of me. Unfortunately, what you see is not exactly what you get.
This tale is a true story of Sarah Winchester and the ghostly visitors who in one way or another told her, “If you build it, they will come.” It seems there is another way you can trap ghost and you don’t need a proton pack to do it. It turns out that by building the very room someone died in will draw the victims in that very room and keep them dormant until they can move on to the other side. Targeting the house are the victims of anyone who has died by being shot by the very guns, the Winchester Rifles, Sarah Winchester has made her fortune. There are people who think she is losing her mind so in comes Dr. Eric Price to come in and declare her incompetent so the rest of the investors can take control of the company and the fortune.
Sadly, the movie didn’t live up to its full potential with weak jump scares, slow pacing, and lack of story. Don’t get me wrong, the concept of this movie is fantastic and adding why the house is continuously being built 24/7 is a nice touch to the typical haunted house shenanigans. Starting with the jump scares, you saw the best jump scares in the trailer. Don’t expect it to get any more suspenseful from what you have seen in ads and tv spots. While there were a few images that seemed a little creepy, those moments were tackled with loud noises to cover up the fact that their scares weren’t creative at all. Think the Woman in Black. Both movies just had a lot of “close calls” and in your face moments that you simply got tired of their fake outs and at the end of it all, nothing really happened.
Once you are halfway through the movie, you realize the jump scares are not going to keep you focused it’s all up to the story to rise your interest and that also suffered from weird editing and slow pacing. Every once in a while, I would find myself asking, is this movie story driven or fear driven. The conversations or “sessions” between our two leads seemed promising as we slowly learned the history of the house and the attempt for character development. Basically, these scenes were elaborate attempts to prove that these ghosts are real. As audience members, we know they are real, and we are waiting for the good doctor to believe what he is seeing is real. Trust me when I say so much evidence and moments were given to him but the film just kept dragging this charade along until the 3rd act. By then, we honestly didn’t care so much as to what happens with the characters. It was more about how this movie was going to end.
The lack of story in my opinion made this movie worse. Unaware of the history of this house, I wanted to know more about it and its inhabitants. As big as the house was, it was almost a character in itself. With its maze-like hallways and staircases, to the unique look to each room, you wanted to know what was behind each door and what surprises awaits. What we got was a single tragedy that ended up being the bulk of the happenings in the house. I don’t mean to spoil anymore than that, if you can count what I wrote a spoiler.
The acting from Helen Mirren was superb of course. She took charge as the lady of the house and had her staff running like clockwork nonstop to do her bidding. Regardless what people might think about her, she never let anyone tell her she was crazy and she loved her family so much she is willing to do anything to protect them. The rest of the cast including the Dr. (Jason Clarke), Sarah Snook and Finn Scicluna-O’Prey who play Sarah’s family Marion and Henry respectively, and staff that looks like employees working in the haunted mansion at Disneyland didn’t help the movie gain anymore excitement. These characters were merely pawns to attempt to creep you out with a possible body count. They don’t really add much to the movie with their presence.
The makeup used on the ghost is pretty weak as well. Which made the movie kind of hokey in a way and that also took some of the fear out of the movie too. I will say this though, the film still made me very curious about the house. Living in California, I have this urge to go and see for myself what this house looks like. Something about it being a true story and just the way the house was built still keeps you slightly intrigued but as far as entertainment goes for the movie, this was a little bit of a snooze fest compared to the expectations set by the trailer. I don’t intend to blame this on the fact that this movie is PG-13 as the directors have worked with this rating before and have succeeded with flying colors. I would say that if you are a history buff or get a jolt of excitement to know that what you see is loosely based on true events, I would say this movie may be worth the watch for you. If you are going to be spooked by this haunting story, you may be disappointed. Once you have seen the movie, I don’t believe the ending gives you reason to watch again. If anything, it should motivate you to watch a documentary on the house or something similar but Winchester is a slow driven movie with not much scares or reason to make you remember what you saw once it’s ended.
2 out of 5
I appreciate you once again reading my review. If you happen to have seen this movie, let me know what you thought of this film. Did it happen to scare you more than it did me? Does this inspire you to learn more about one of the scariest haunted houses in America? Leave a comment and keep a lookout for more reviews in the future. I’ll see you at the movies.