There’s something discouraging about a film when its title screen is laden with excessive trademark reminders and a lot of fine print.
Obviously, this is for legal reasons since the Winchester license is owned by the Olin Corporation today. However, it’s unfortunate because I was immediately sucked out of the experience and became annoyingly aware that I was watching a product. And this was only the first of many problems that “Winchester” couldn’t seem to get past.
The year is 1906 and Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren, “Trumbo”), after the passing of her husband, has gained the majority stock holdings in the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company. However, her mental stability is called into question as she begins to build room upon room in a seemingly endless maze of hallways in her mansion. Thus, Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) is asked to evaluate her, to see if she has the capacity to run the company. When the good doctor arrives at the Winchester Mansion, he discovers that the evaluation won’t be as easy as he originally expected.
While the actual mansion is real, the events that proceed in “Winchester” are almost purely fictional. It’s a shame because there are plenty of stories and accounts that could have been used. If handled correctly, which entails putting faith in anyone during the production to put forth effort, there could have been some truly terrifying and unique moments in the film. Unfortunately, it’s just utterly unnecessary.
Coming up with positive things to say about the movie is a bizarre minefield of asterisks.
Sure, the set design is fantastic, but it would have been awesome to see more of this crazy house. A few of the jump scares were effective, but that has more to do with the fact that they happened far sooner than expected, and not because they were well crafted. Also, hold onto your hats (if you choose to see the movie) for one single surprise, but only about halfway in, making the last half so tedious to sit though.
The film did manage to get a few chuckles out of me; for good and for bad. There are a couple very clever jokes, especially one centering around the forbidden act of drinking of alcohol before dinner. However, most of my snickering came from spooky moments intended to freak me out that only made me snort obscenely loudly.
It’s the overall drabness of the film that brings it down. “Winchester” is just far too uninteresting. There’s a bit of set up for a spooky moment, the jumps care inevitably happens, and then it’s back to talking about the mind before starting the process all over again. The movie becomes so rote that it quickly becomes unbearable to sit through. It begins to weigh on the viewer as it becomes clear that it’s only going to continue to get worse.
Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to say about “Winchester.” I’m still mad about the name change. “Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built” has a much better ring to it, but in the grand scheme of things, that grievance is irrelevant. It’s an awful horror flick that’s inoffensive but painful to sit through nonetheless.