The Best Characters with the Winchester Name Ride Around in an Impala
It doesn’t take much for me to find something I enjoy in most horror movies. Unfortunately, Winchester doesn’t really give me a lot to choose from and in the end, I was simply disappointed because it squanders the talent and the premise. Still, I feel like it’s certainly the better of the two horror movies 2018 has given us so far. Then again, that really isn’t saying much.
Winchester is based on the real-life story behind The Winchester Mansion, supposedly one of the most haunted places in the United States. Helen Mirren plays Mary Winchester, the widowed owner of the Winchester Repeating Rifle Company. Mary though is a bit… eccentric. Her home is under construction 24 hours a day 7 days a week, as she constantly expands the maze of rooms. Supposedly all this is done because she is haunted by the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles and builds her home to trap them and keep them from hurting her family. A pretty cool premise, right?
The premise though is the only thing that really manages to work when it comes to this haunted house movie. Don’t get me wrong, Mirren and her co-star Jason Clarke give us performances we would absolutely expect from actors of their caliber. However, they’re only as good as the script and considering what they have to work with they really go above and beyond. The story though is a nonsensical mess. Basically, Clarke is a psychiatrist who is sent to assess Mary’s mental state and soon finds that she’s not crazy because the spirits are very real. Now that’s a fair basis for the story. However, the scripts clumsily tries to force in a special connection between Clarke and the spirits of the house. It’s literally a twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan’s roll his eyes. Fortunately, you get plenty of warning before the big reveal, because it’s not so subtly alluded to repeatedly throughout Winchester.
Then there is the big bad villain of the movie. A ghost with more anger than anyone else killed by a Winchester rifle. One who is so powerful that he threatens the very balance that house has worked so hard to achieve. While this threat might sound ominous, his big reveal is, well, a huge letdown. The menacing force is a dead Confederate soldier with an obnoxious southern drawl who is mad that he and his brothers died in fighting in a war. I mean, that sucks for him, but that doesn’t really seem like a brutal enough back story to warrant him being so all powerful. In fact, it kinda feels like there are probably hundreds of stories like that from that war.
Despite the questionable story and the noticeable void where tension should be in Winchester, the house itself is pretty spectacular to take in. Though most of the movie is confined to only a few rooms, the film does a great job of creating a haunting ambiance. It’s too bad that it never translates into the story and waste it on lackluster jumpscares. Even though the actuall house is massive, there is an almost claustrophobic feel to the movie, which is a nice move on the part of The Spierig Brothers. However, this begs the question of how Winchester could go so wrong with a strong cast, perfect location, and the mood bring just right at certain points?
Honestly, the only thing scary about Winchester is Finn Scicluna-O’Prey. The kid is the very definition of creepy with his dead eyes, Beatles bowl cut, and unnaturally red hair. Plus, let’s face it, gingers are just the worst. As unsettling as he is in his role, that’s still not enough to make Winchester a true horror movie. Instead, it’s more of what we’ve come to expect from the vast majority of the genre. An idea that seems pretty cool, a cast that seems like they could knock it out of the park, and then little effort beyond that. As much as I was looking forward to Winchester and hoped it would be one of the better movies this month, it’s a big disappointment.