“Winchester” is based on events that may occurred in a house built by Sarah Winchester in the early 1900’s. Helen Mirren plays Sarah Winchester and Jason Clarke plays a doctor that is sent to examine her sanity by members of the repeating arms company in which she is the majority shareholder of. Also at the mansion are Sarah Winchester’s niece and nephew who is constantly terrorized by spirits that Winchester is convinced haunt the house.
While Winchester’s release date may fall on February 2nd, this is very much the January horror film that we never got. It manages to be watchable, but also quite frustrating. With some incredible source material, this film would have made an unbelievably perfect slow-burn gothic horror flick. Instead, it settles as a jump scare fest meant to appeal to the younger crowd. There is no sense of surprise with any of the scares in this movie as they are done in the most predictable way possible. While Winchester is not as bad as it probably could have been, you can’t wonder about the potential that is squandered.
Winchester is not only predictable, but also relies on some of the most conventional horror film tropes you’ve ever seen. Someone turns a mirror, and there is a scare when the mirror flips back. A small child gets possessed by this evil spirit. A doctor who is a skeptic has his opinion changed. You get the point, if a Insiodous film has done it, Winchester is probably doing it too. You can’t help but get a sense of laziness as even the exterior shots are not the actual mansion but instead done in CGI.
Winchester lacks in the character development as well. Sarah Winchester’s niece is really not needed in the film. You could cut her and her son out entirely, and it wouldn’t change the end result at all. As an audience member you are thrown into the lives of these people with very little background. The little character work that this movie does is rather ineffective. While the dialogue can be rather troubling, the way that Winchester relays its exposition is even worse. Whenever the film has something that it wants you to know a character will spit out like they are in an infomercial. Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke aren’t bad, but they just don’t have much to work with
Winchester is the kind of film that makes you appreciate when you see a good horror movie when you see one. It’s not the worst movie you will see all year, but it’s certainly not the best either. The cast and fantastic set design make this movie watchable. It can’t help, but seem like another jump scare fueled generic horror film, but what makes it even more disconcerting is all of the potential that it couldn’t capitalize on.