Winchester, You Turd!
Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) is the heiress of the Winchester Rifle Company and she is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of those killed by her dead husband’s rifles. She lives in San Jose inside a sprawling mansion where she pays workers to constantly build new rooms and wings to the mansion, 24-7, in an effort to confuse the ghosts that roam the halls, wishing to find Sarah and torment her. Some hallways lead to dead ends, some stairwells rise into the ceiling, doors open into other rooms but sometimes into open spaces. It’s a confusing, strange place, and the minority shareholders of the Winchester company are concerned about Sarah’s mental health. They send in a psychologist, Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) to evaluate her capabilities, with the hope he will declare her insane or unfit, and thus they can begin their take over. Dr. Price is an alcoholic drug abuser, and a man tormented by his own past, having lost a wife to suicide and having died for several moments himself before coming back to life. Despite this, he is a skeptic when it comes to ghosts and hauntings, and he approaches his job in just that manner. Soon, however, he learns that either ghosts are real, or he is losing his own mind. For there is a particularly malevolent spirit in the house that wants to kill everyone he can find, and use Sarah’s young nephew as his conduit. Can Dr. Price and Sarah stop this monster?
I avoided this movie when it came out because instinct told me it would stink. I then avoided watching it on DVD because of the same reason, and because the word of mouth I heard wasn’t too flattering. So finally it’s on Netflix and I decided to shut up and give it a shot. Well, I don’t like being harsh, but this movie is a mess. There’s a nice set-up, where we get introduced to Dr. Price, really feeling sympathy for this very lost man who is decent and caring, just utterly sad. And then there’s Sarah Winchester, who is also very interesting, if a bit dry. The film is peppered with several jump scares that work or don’t, but always keep things interesting. There’s no mystery to solve here; we’re pretty aware right away that ghosts are bopping around, being scary, doing weird stuff. But then comes the little kid nephew character, and oh my, isn’t he creepy? And he sings odd little songs just like one of the ghosts! It’s the “Creepy Kid Trope” and it’s boring as hell. Shortly after this, the directors discover they have plenty of money for lots of CGI effects and any kind of care I had for this movie or its characters was drowned in a sea of floating knives and wild, tilt-a-whirl, animated action. This whole thing devolves into a by-the-numbers affair, all blasting noise and scrambling nerves. Characters scream nonsense like "Use the 13 nails!" and "Leave us alone!" It becomes quite generic, the story itself a series of clichés and boring turns in the plot. Turgid, I think, is the best word to describe it, which is a shame, because the real-life story of the mansion is actually quite fascinating.
I suppose if you’re thirteen years old and have never seen a horror film in your life, this will shock the crap out of you. But let’s face it, that demographic doesn’t exist anymore. Winchester feels like a movie made out of obligation, a tax write-off, product for product’s sake. There’s a “going through the motions” feel to the proceedings that’s hard to shake. I don’t mean to be so harsh, but I have to be honest. This one is a turd.