Winchester Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A truly missed opportunity! Not even Helen Mirren is able to save the dreadful screenplay and lackluster atmosphere of this uninspired ghost picture.
Genre: Fantasy / Horror
Director: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
Cast: Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Helen Mirren, Finn Scicluna O’Prey, Eamon Farren, Angus Sampson, Bruce Spence, Tyler Coppin & Laura Brent.
Run Time: 99 min.
US Release: 02 February 2018
UK Release: 02 February 2018
German: 15 March 2018
Next in line for my string of horror reviews this month, is my post for Winchester, a supernatural ghost movie directed by the Spierig brothers, who are known for the fun vampire flick Daybreakers, the fantastic sci-fi drama Predestination and the horrible seventh Saw sequel Jigsaw, released last year. Although the trailers did not really manage to catch my attention, I was interested to see this horror feature, as the biography of Sarah Winchester is one filled with mysteries and secrets. Sadly, Winchester did not turn out to tell the tale I was hoping to see, instead, the audience is served with a lukewarm paranormal story.
Sarah Winchester (Mirren), heiress to the Winchester fortune and the Winchester Repeater Arms Company, summons Dr. Eric Price (Clarke) to her mansion, which is standing on an isolated strip of land in San Jose, California. Convinced that she and her family is cursed by the ghosts of those who died at the hands of a Winchester firearm, she hired construction workers to build and rebuild sections of the mansion 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to calm the angry spirits. Dr. Price though doesn’t believe in ghosts and starts investigating.
The plot is the weakest part this film has to offer. Pointless and with little exploration of the Winchester family itself, the trailers mislead the audience into believing that Sarah Winchester is the lead character of the movie, when in fact it is somebody else. A shame because having focused on one of the most prominent women of the late 1800’s / early 1900’s in US history, would have made for a much better product with more substance!
Instead, the viewers obtain a boring narrative with little to nothing happening in it, while pandering shots of people building or cleaning the mansion are used to fill the empty blanks of the script. The sequences during the night, on the other hand, are filled with predictable jump scares of ghostly apparitions that lead to no real outcome. It is not until the last thirty minutes that the story picks up in speed, finally exploring the past of some of the characters, though, by then it is too late as the dull fictive tale kills any last curiosities about any of the personas.
The dialogues reflect the weak plot, using uninteresting conversations that take part most of the time as psychological therapy sessions between Sarah Winchester and Dr. Eric Price. Then there is the problem of line delivery itself, which can be very wooden, distracting from the barely existing story.
Dr. Eric Price, played by Jason Clarke, is the real protagonist of this paranormal-horror flick. Clarke is a fine actor but his performance in this piece is nothing else than subpar, not able to give his role the spark needed to make him relatable. It would have benefited the picture if an actor with more charisma had been cast as the psychologist. Price himself went through a tragic loss that traumatised him, though, the character is written incredibly shallow, missing any emotional weight and depth.
Helen Mirren, one of the greatest English actresses still living, gave an all right performance as Sarah Winchester. Her character is not introduced until halfway through the film and even then she is not properly explored as a character, instead portrayed as an eccentric old lady with deranged fantasies about being cursed. That awkward behaviour is explained during the last couple of minutes, again too late, as the audience already lost any further interest for this supernatural tale. It is frustrating to see a talented actress as Mirren try to give a good rendition of a badly written character.
Sarah Snook has a small part as Marion Marriott, niece of Sarah Winchester and mother of Henry Marriott, portrayed by the young Australian actor Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, who seemed to be rather confused about his role. Both characters were absolutely pointless, having no outcome on the film whatsoever, nor do they serve to tell a real side-plot.
The cinematography is this movie’s saving grace; director of photography Ben Nott helped at creating a good-looking picture with intriguing shots of the mansion’s interior, as well as capturing the action well on camera. The two- and three-shots are well utilised, creating a little bit of tension. However, the close-ups are used to create tiring jump scares that are easy to predict. The lighting can be an issue at times, specifically during scenes that play in the night or along dark corridors but that is the only real issue to be found when it comes to the camera work. The special effects are mostly all right, using a healthy mix of practical and computer designs.
Verdict: This is a very disappointing paranormal-period piece. The directors, who co-wrote the script together with Tom Vaughan, created a snoozefest of a horror flick, containing a barely existent narrative. Jump-scares are periodically added during night scenes, to make the viewer jump but have no real consequences for any of the personas in the movie. The biggest disappointment, however, is the fact that Sarah Winchester, whose surname is used as the title of this feature, is not even the main character of the story; appearing first around the middle of the runtime. It is instead revealed that the leading role is given to Jason Clarke, who portrays a very shallow and bland psychiatrist, while Sarah Snook and Finn Scicluna-O’Prey are absolutely wasted in this production. The only saving grace this film has is its camera work. Winchester is an absolute waste of time and doesn’t deserve more than a 3.5 out of 10. Have you seen Winchester yet? What were your thoughts when it ended? Leave a comment below and if you liked this review give it a thumbs up and subscribe. Thank you for reading!