Winchester Review: Shoots Itself in the Foot


Winchester Shoots Itself in the Foot

Throughout the course of history, there are a select few triumphant films in the horror genre that were initially panned by critics and audiences alike. Today's masterpieces 'The Shining', 'Psycho', and 'The Night of the Hunter' were greeted with antipathy and furious moviegoers. The Spierig's horror endeavor when looked back upon will still be just as insulting to my intelligence as a lover of horror as in my first viewing, 'Winchester' simply shoots itself in the foot. The horror genre has been pursued with such immediate influence and repetition to the point of bemused cliche, that it may seem impossible for a new release to find insight and originality. Whereas I wholly disagree with such a statement, here, the idea insists on being feasible.

The most frightening thing to me about this picture was not the prosaic jump scares of the frenetic dead, but the death of creativity and art. It's as bromide as a fifty year old father exclaiming about basketball with utter certainty that "defense win's championships" or the very same man going through a midlife crisis purchasing a Porsche. This can be seen when not once does the laudable actress Helen Mirren remind the audience that "this is the most powerful spirit I have ever encountered", but three times. The rest of the script of course models the very same personality-free characteristics that at once tell the "true story" of the subsequent revenge filled dead as well as the dead as a simulacrum for the coping of lost relationships (a subplot I did find interesting).

The intricate and interesting estate in which Sarah Winchester(Helen Mirren) abides, unlike the film it inhabits, is always moving and building. Due to Winchester's fear of the dead, she attempts to trap and communicate the lost souls who have been killed by the product of her business. The film opens to heroic score with an equally bold emblem declaring authenticity. Although ironically the words "inspired by true events" has become jargon of the industry to sell tickets, 'Winchester' actually is inspired by true events. Whether ghosts truly lurked around every bend of the massive and innovative American four-square home, that is entirely up to interpretation(there is not much convincing here). Set in 1906, heiress of the arms dealership Sarah Winchester seeks out psychologist Dr. Price(Jason Clark) to judge her insanity. Due to a background in medication, the hard stuff, and a recent loss, he is unable at first to make a definitive decision. Yet with time and foreseeable surprises he has a change of heart and mind.

The film truly believes it's audience does not have this by the numbers plot figured out. Every twist is escorted with epiphany, however, we knew it all to be true from the first act. Granted, the labyrinth structure manifests itself with eeriness, claustrophobia, and sharp light and shadows. It simply goes without urgency, as the camera never moves and neither does the movie itself. The light in the darkness here are the performances from Helen Mirren and Jason Clark, although the screenplay manages to make the characters feel lifeless and irritating. To this date, Mirren has played a Queen(The Queen), a dissident assassin in 'Red', and everything in between. She has been credited in 129 movies and T.V. series' according to IMDB(Internet Movie Data Base), and out of all of those, this may have been the most eye-rolling script she has ever been handed.

'Winchester' will remind you of superior films 'The Conjuring', 'The Exorcist', 'The Sixth Sense', and most notably 'The Haunting'. And it does so by blatantly rehashing these themes without the same control, pace, tension, formidable characters, and overarching craft. In doing so it drudges the message of the right to bear arms, but really audiences should have the right to a horror film that is not bare of originality.