Helen Mirren in a horror film is intriguing.
Synopsis: Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters. (VVS Films)
Starring: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, and Sarah Snook
Writers: Tom Vaughan and The Spierig Brothers
Director: The Spierig Brothers
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 99mins
For showtimes and more, check out Winchester on movietimes.com.
The horror genre has been mostly stale, lacking originality while employing the same tropes over and over again. Nothing about them comes as much of a surprise anymore. This film was no different. The main problem with this one was that it took way too long to get going while failing to keep the viewer invested in the characters of the story. Being a relatively short film, it’s too little too late.
For those who haven’t seen the many trailers that gave most of the story away. the story is about a doctor named Eric Price (Clarke) who is tasked to assess the sanity of a woman named Sarah Winchester (Mirren), an heiress to the Winchester fortune. In her grief, she has built a constantly expanding house to contain countless ghosts. Her sanity or lack thereof shouldn’t be hard to prove but it of course didn’t quite happen that way. This house, called the Winchester house, still exists today. If you ever wanted to learn more about the house, this film is probably not the best way to go.
In terms of the story, there isn’t anything original about it whatsoever as a rational skeptic is placed in a new environment that challenges their beliefs until they somehow change. Price’s journey throughout the house is stringed along by a series of predictable jump scares which weren’t scary or will come as much of a surprise to most viewers. The film tells us what to expect early on so everything after that isn’t as shocking thus devoiding it of any suspense. From there, the film became more about him than Winchester herself. The problem with this was that the character of Price was just so dull to watch that it was difficult to ever get invested in him.
The Winchester house is supposed to be this confusing, elaborate, maze of a house but this film failed to give us much of a sense of this other than from Winchester spewing line after line of exposition that eventually set up the final third of the film in a way that bloated it more than it needed to be. Not much happened before that, featuring other subplots that didn’t matter like Price’s backstory and another with Winchester’s niece Marian (Snook) and her son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey). By the time something actually happened during the final third of the film, it didn’t matter because most will have surely lost interest by then.
The best part of the film was the performances which were okay but they obviously screamed phoning it in. Neither Mirren or Clarke seemed particularly interested in being there and it showed in their performances. Both are great actors, however, the script didn’t do them any favors as the characters were dull and the rest of the film was mostly on the boring side so they couldn’t do much to save it.
Overall, this was a film with a promising concept involving the famed Winchester haunted house that was ultimately a dull and unoriginal horror film further let down by a dull script full of dull characters.