2018 in Cinema:
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers
Starring: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook
Dry, noisy and bland. Winchester has a nice premise; Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), the widow of famed gun manufacturer William Winchester, is visited by spirits of the lives ended by the guns her company creates. They communicate to her a room they want and she has it built, and then in this room the ghosts can peacefully accept their fate, or be banished to the room should they act in any other way. One week, however, while Sarah has a doctor, Eric (Jason Clarke) round to check her state of mind, a rogue spirit seeks to take revenge on Sarah for the damage a Winchester rifle ahs caused his family.
There are many parts of that premise which sound like they could make for a fairly decent film, and I was rather encouraged after seeing the trailer and being pleased with the appearance of the house and its many rooms. That excitement didn’t carry long into the film, however, as it soon became apparent this film wasn’t going to be clever, or interesting, or creepy; it is a clichéd mess of jump-scares and noises and poorly written dialogue. The opening shot sees us introduced to our main character in Eric, and in this shot he is drunk and flirting with what I believe were ladies of the night. This is our protagonist. His drinking is presented as a major factor in his characteristic and he takes it with him while he stays at the Winchester, but after it’s confiscated by Sarah he never needs it again nor does he care to seek it out. It’s that sort of lazy writing that is saddled throughout this entire film. Even the story arc surrounding the main villain-spirit-thing seems to be in a backwards order [minor spoilers ahead] as we see the possessed kid before we see Sarah sketch the room that the spirit desires yet we’re told they have their rooms made first.
The dialogue is also terrible, with many characters rattling off large quantities of exposition, and many, many scenes of them just talking to one another, which is fine in most films, but when a film gives you a leading character which is rather detestable and a leading female character who we know next-to-nothing about then their conversations about his money trick just come across as boring. All the other background characters do not offer any individuality, instead simply repeating things already told about us (one character reminds us that if a room is locked it’s forbidden, not long after Sarah tells us that if a room is locked it’s forbidden) or answering questions by simply rephrasing the question (‘You must be very happy with all this work issued to you by Mrs. Winchester?’ ‘Yes, we’re very happy with all this work issued by Mrs. Winchester.’)
There is one part about this film I like, and, unfortunately, I cannot speak about it as it is a bit of a spoiler. It doesn’t really have much of an effect on the overall plot . . . or anything, for that matter, but it’s quite clever, and subtle, and that’s what I like in horror films. And in one where everything is thrown at our faces, its subtleness was a welcomed addition. But when the only praise can be given to something which doesn’t ultimately change very much you know you’ve got a poor film. Dry dialogue, noisy jump-scares and bland characters.
Plot: * * Acting: * * Writing: * Presentation: * *