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Winchester: Poorly Executed Potential?

  • Finn Scicluna-O'PreyHelen Mirren...
  • FantasyHorror
  • Michael SpierigPeter Spierig
reviewed by
Cairo 360
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Winchester: Poorly Executed Potential?

A film with an interesting premise, an original plot line, and several shocking reveals, seems like a horror feature on the right track, right? Well no, not exactly; despite all of its potential, Winchester insisted on taking a rushed and messy route to mediocrity.

Inspired by real characters, and based on true events, the film tells the tale of Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren): a woman whose sanity is questioned by a weapon company’s board of directors. The board want control over the fifty percent share that Sarah’s late husband has left her. To prove she is insane, the company hires a troubled and drug addicted psychiatrist Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke), and promise him a financial reward, if he declares her unfit to run the company. While conducting the evaluation, Doctor Price finds out about Winchester’s unfinished house, and gets to experience the spirits that haunt the house for himself. More specifically, the film revolves around the spirits of Winchester rifles’ victims, and the rooms that Sarah has built in order to imprison these vengeful spirits. 

The film’s first scene seemed quite promising: a little boy, Sarah Winchester’s grandson, walking around the house with his face covered in a bag, his pupils whitened, pointing at the dark and saying “he is coming for us.” This is one of the few instances in horror films, where things do not start in a natural and relaxed environment; instead, the film jumps right into the action.

While the film had a lot going for it, it failed to live up to its own potential. For example, the film does a great job at paving the path for revealing the identity behind one of the antagonistic spirit; however, when it comes to the actual reveal, the antagonistic spirit’s identity (a solider) is disclosed in a very predictable and unoriginal manner. Speaking of misused reveals, the connection between Doctor Price, his late wife, and the house could have been unveiled in a stronger manner, one that would have sent waves of shock through audience members if properly executed; instead, the connection was unveiled through a mere casual conversation. 

There are also several other scenes that contain huge untapped potential. For example, there was a scene towards the end of the film, where all the spirits escaped their rooms and ran loose in the house. Although this could have set the stage for one of the scariest movie scenes in cinematic history, the film makers chose to have the spirits behave passively. 

What somewhat carried the film was, seasoned actress, Helen Mirren’s performance as Sarah Winchester; a performance that was highly convincing and brilliant, especially when compared to Jason Clarke’s less than average performance.

As a whole, the film is watchable and maybe even somewhat good, but just prepare yourself for  several “oh what could have been” moments. 

Like This? Try

The Others (2001), Mother! (2017), Orphan (2009), Poltergeist (1982), 13 Ghosts (1960), The Conjuring (2013). 

360 Tip

The Winchester Mystery House actually exists, and is located in San Jose, California. It is believed to be haunted by the victims of the Winchester rifle.

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