WINCHESTER Movie Review
I’m going to preface this review by asking this question: Did you know that you can kill a ghost with a gun? That and other fun facts can be had in Winchester, the latest film by the Spierig Brothers. I’ve never seen their other work but if this is any indication, I’m better off.
Winchester is based on the actual house that resides near San Jose, California. When I was ten, my parents took me to visit the historical mansion and it definitely left an impression on me. It’s essentially filled with doors to nowhere, dead ends, spiraling staircases and dead end hallways. Sarah Winchester, the sole heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune, became a recluse and highly spiritual in her later years. A medium convinced her that she would forever be plagued by the spirits of the victims from the rifles if she didn’t keep building onto her house, day and night. For her remaining days, this was the case until she passed away in 1922.
That would have made for a fantastic, eerie film in itself. The filmmakers took it upon themselves to take that premise, introduce actual “ghosts” into the equation, and turn it into a PG-13 horror film. What actually made it to screen is one of the worst movie going experiences I have been to. Their were literally four people inside the movie theater and forty five minutes in, one of them left and never returned. What didn’t work? Pretty much all of it.
The story, which should have been easy enough to adapt off the actual history, is a complete mess. I could even sense that some of the cast felt the same way, most of the time they either looked completely bored or disinterested in the material. In making this a ghost story, they of course rely on jump scares in the first half quite a bit. What’s even more bothersome is that they introduce a set of rules into the film but don’t bother to follow them. Their is an obligatory twist or two but by the time you get to the reveal, you’ve more than likely checked out mentally or are wondering if you did your taxes correctly.
I really wish I had something to applaud about Winchester. At one point I was trying to justify enjoying the sound effects in relation to the surround sound but even that was subpar. The costuming really seemed to be the only thing that stands out in a positive way. I’ve always been a fan of the turn of the century clothing style so it was nice to see attention to detail there. The movie is also set in 1906 and yes, they actually use the historic earthquake as a plot point during the climax.
This is in no way a good film. It isn’t even one of those cases where making it an R rated feature would have helped. It really pains me that a truly great psychological thriller about spiritualism or mental illness could have been made here, instead we have a paint by numbers horror flick.