Although I didn’t care for Winchester, I do want to talk about the positives first. For a movie with small budget, Winchester looks pretty good. They take advantage of the atmosphere, the historical period and the authentically creepy setting. I also liked the costuming and some of the cinematography. There are some shots that show interesting things and I liked the beginning of the story. There’s some intrigue with Dr. Price (Jason Clarke) being sent to do a psychological evaluation on this eccentric widow Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) with some ulterior motives in this undeniably unsettling environment. That about sums up the positive parts of Winchester.
As much as I want to give Winchester additional points for taking advantage of a unique story, I’m going to take points back for squandering the material. I don’t know the intimate details surrounding Sarah Winchester or the Winchester mystery house but a gigantic mansion that’s being continually constructed to hold the ghosts of the victims of the Winchester Repeating Rifle? You think that the movie would almost write itself. Instead, the movie feels confined and refuses to show off what should be the most important set piece. We’re confined to few areas when there should be this big variety of places to visit and spirits to contend with. I wanted to spend less time with Sarah and more time exploring the environment.
Between the mythology surrounding the Winchester house and the Spierig Brothers, we have some heavyweights in the cast. Unfortunately, the material is the ball and chain around their ankles. Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke are 2 strong leads to cast in any movie, yet they can’t transcend the material and are dragged down. The one that was a big letdown was Sarah Snook, I like getting the chance to talk about when someone does something worth taking notice of and if you’ve seen the Spierig Bros. movie Predestination, her performance in that was amazing. She deserved some recognition for it, I’ve looked forward to seeing her in other stuff and she came off as bland in this. I hope she rebounds quickly and I want to believe this was a script problem because no one looks good in this. That include Finn Scicluna-O’Prey who does little outside of being a generic possessed kid.
The problem that truly cripples Winchester is that its a horror movie that lacks any scares. I could see most of the jump scares coming from a mile away and its the same thing where the music blares and something pops out over and over again. I expected better from a project being captained by such accomplished people. The story starts out with some promise, but it starts to falter in the middle and it just turns ridiculous at the end. The twist with the villain is an old trick and the climactic moments try for emotional beats that they haven’t earned. I don’t even want to get into how our heroes defeat the villain. When the tension should be ramping up, I had to keep myself from snickering and laughing and that’s never a good sign.
I have to chalk this one up as a disappointment. I’ve seen worse horror movies, and this was more boring than offensive. I wanted more from Winchester and you would think with such a reputable team in front of and behind the camera, they would have delivered. Its too bad that we have had so many exciting and bold horror movies to come out lately and this one ends up being so run-of-the-mill. This story deserved a better movie and even if you’re interested in the Winchester story, you should give this one a hard pass.