Written by Aaron Radcliff:
Believe it or not but I love horror movies. There’s something strangely enjoyable about sitting down to a movie and getting spooked. Nothing can top the feeling of anxiety and the rush of getting scared from a good horror flick.
Too bad the genre has sucked for a good while and Winchester doesn’t change that trend. Sit back, everyone. I’m in a mood and I’m ready to beat on a poor, defenseless horror film.
Winchester claims to be “based on true events” and centers around Dr. Eric Price, a psychiatrist who is hired by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company to evaluate the mental state of the company’s owner, Sarah Winchester. Sarah has been tormented for years by the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle and has had her home under continuous construction to appease the spirits. But lately, things have been becoming more dangerous for her and her family. Is it all in their heads or are the ghosts truly there?
Of course it’s actually ghosts. Did you really think they’d try to go for a smart psychological horror film?
The first thing you might notice about the movie is the fact that it managed to somehow wrangle in Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke. While I could sit here and criticize the casting choice, it’s evident that’s where a majority of the film’s money went to, but at least they got what they paid for. Mirren and Clarke (who play Sarah Winchester and Dr. Price) seem to really be the only ones attempting to give any type of life to such a dead movie –no pun intended. It’s obvious that they’re really trying their best to make a good movie out of an iffy concept and uninteresting script, but the two alone aren’t enough. But what grinds my gears though is the inclusion of Sarah Winchester’s niece and great-nephew (played by Sarah Snook and Finn Scicluna-O’Prey). I’m not going to hate on them for their portrayal but rather their inclusion. They serve no real purpose to the plot in that, if they were completely cut out, the film wouldn’t change at all. They’re just there because apparently they have to be (which happens to be the same reason I was at the theater).
Fine, whatever. Stiff acting and unneeded characters. What about the plot? Is that any good?
Honestly, not really. There’s some interesting stuff toward the end which would’ve made for a much better addition to the story. Without getting into detail, there’s a scene in particular where we finally dive into Dr. Price’s past and it really tries to be a big emotional moment and it ALMOST worked. If we spent a little more time focusing on his past rather than brief references to events, this could’ve been a very emotional scene but instead it’s just kinda there. Instead we get different scenes of Price walking around the house, talking to people, and seeing the occasional ghost. Had about 20 minutes of that been cut out and devoted to Price and his apparent “connection” to the house, this could’ve done rather well. Instead we’re stuck with boring scenes filled with boring people speaking boring dialogue.
Even the horror is boring whenever it can even be bothered to show up. There’s no tension or nuance or subtlety. It’s all jump scares. I’m not even kidding. The couple of “scares” attempted in this are entirely jump scares and not even well executed ones. We’ve seen them all before and can spot them from a mile away. If I were an infant and managed to be stimulated by peek-a-boo then maybe this would work. But I’m not. I’m a grown-ass man (at least that’s what I tell myself). I shouldn’t be thinking that walking across the room to get a glass of milk is scarier than anything in this movie.
At the end of the day, this all circles back to just being boring. Everything works as a glorified Wikipedia page, spewing exposition to fill in anyone who didn’t Google the house before coming to the theater. Maybe if they tweeked the story, tried to be creative with their scares, and had actors who were willing to take some of the burden off of Mirren and Clarke, then MAYBE this could’ve been a passable-at-best film. Instead, we got Winchester…more like Borechester or Losechester…..
I guarantee I put more effort into that joke than anyone did with the script.
Score: 4 out of 10
Image via Lionsgate and CBS Films