Winchester (2018)

Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Writer: Tom Vaughan, Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Cast: Jason Clarke, Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Emm Wiseman, Angus Sampson
Seen on: 21.3.2018

Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is a psychiatrist whose addiction to laudanum is starting to compromise his career. When the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) asks him to come to her house and prove that she is not insane – despite appearances – he accepts, trying to escape his own life and past. But the Winchester estate, constantly under construction, is not only a weird place, something more is going on there. Something that probably won’t end well.

Winchester is a middling film that builds too much on jump scares and too little on characters. It mostly lives of the house itself and while it is a cool house, it’s not enough for the film they made of it.

I have nothing against jump scares. I know a lot of people consider them cheap, but as an additional element, they can really work (with) the tension a film creates. They are only really problematic when they are the only thing the film tries to build tension from; when they’re the only trick a movie has up its sleeves. That’s what happens with Winchester: they rely way too much on the short term boo and don’t manage to racket up the long term dread that is needed to make a film really scary.

Maybe they didn’t want to make a scary film, there are horror movies like that as well. But then you need something else to take the place of fear, and here the film falls flat. The plot is utterly predictable, the characters don’t deviate from genre conventions and clichés. That it was probably not much fun to play such a character can be seen in Mirren’s lackluster performance (granted, a lackluster Helen Mirren is still way above average).

The only thing that really stands out about the film is the Winchester house – and how astounding to think that there really is a Winchester mansion which appears well worth visiting, if you ask me. I like oddities. I wonder if the film would have worked better if they’d given up even the pretense of a plot and built more on an exploration of the house itself with the camera moving slowly through it (I know I have seen a film like this, but I’ll be damned if I remember the title ETA: thanks to cornholio, I now remember: it’s The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh that really does the amazing house it is set in justice). But they didn’t really give the house enough attention for that.

In the end, the film becomes a little boring and too long, having found its comfort zone right between good and bad so that just doesn’t ellicit much of a reaction at all. Too bad.

Summarizing: eh. It’s watchable for Helen Mirren but that’s about it.

3 thoughts on “Winchester (2018)

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