Director: The Spierig Brothers
Starring: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Eamon Farren . USA . 1h 39m
The mysteries of the Winchester house have been documented for years and while this movie is based on the facts of a true story it manages to make something mysterious and creepy very mundane and pointless experiment.
The widow of William Wirt Winchester, Sarah (Mirren) went into overdrive at the sudden death of her husband, trying several times to connect with him through spirituality she eventually started to make continuous alterations to their mansion in San Jose using the $20 million dollars inheritance and profits from the Winchester company.
Sarah’s not only working through her grief but she is feeling intense guilt for being part of the gum problem, her husbands guns were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and due to her erratic behaviour, the Winchester company send in a doctor to assess her sanity, Eric Price (Clarke) who’s a drug dependant doctor mourning the suicide of his wife, but he agrees to take on the job and becomes a resident at the home. Sarah is obviously weary of the man but as she’s totally sane, but just having to deal with spirits on a daily basis, she cleans up his act and allows him to proceed with his observations.
The film continues with regular spirit disturbances, very regular, in fact every few minutes something supernatural is going on in the lavish gothic mansion, from the overused scary face jump scares, shaking rooms, noises in the night, scary apparitions, you name it, you can tick off everything that you’d normally see in a haunted house film or for that matter slide show feature, it feels like a cheap horror show at times as the cliches are high in numbers.
The original story is something that you can walk away from wondering if it was a real life ghost story or the weary mind of an aging window racked with guilt and being led along by spiritualists, but Winchester erases that ambiguity and smacks you hard with a conveyor belt of constant faux jumpscares. It’s like the scene in Poltergeist (198?) where they experts are talking about a small toy moving over the course of 10 hours, then the father opens the door and BOOM it’s all going on in the children’s bedroom, well that bedroom is the Winchester house, there’s so much activity going on there are no doubts that spirits are at work here.
Taking away the questions, the film is left with two bold points that it refuses to really get involved with, one, suicide, it highlights just how painful suicide is for the living, Price is dealing with the suicide and while there is some kind of payoff and peace found near the end, it’s signposted early on so I’m not giving anything away but it’s hardly noticeable. But the big kahuna is gun control, the movie could have, and in my opinion should have been a huge aide in the fight for gun control, considering how it’s the reason why any of this happened, it’s skirted around so much and by the end of the film they are shooting at the ghosts, who shoots at ghosts anyway? But this is one of many failed opportunities in a long and dismal movie strangely dimming the light on two amazing stars, Mirren and Clarke tried to save the movie but it just couldn’t be done.
The Spierings have made some adventurous horror movies which are always highly action packed, thrilling and comedic when called for, they can make amazing movies, but they just can’t make a ghost flick.. Hopefully they will bounce back with something great next time!?
R: The Conjuring (2013), Amityville (1979), Haunting in Connecticut (2009), Haunting of Winchester House (2009), Poltergeist (1982)
5s: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke