Winchester

As a widow, Sarah Winchester has inherited majority share of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The other stakeholders get together to hire laudanum-addicted Dr. Price to assess her and find her incompetent to run their business. It shouldn’t be too hard: she’s a crazy, reclusive old lady who is constantly remodelling her home, round the clock, to better suit the ghosts and spirits who inhabit it.

It sounds bad on paper, but once Dr. Price (Jason Clarke) arrives, he starts to share in her hallucinations. Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) was a real person, and she really did believe that anyone killed by one of her guns may visit her home in death – seeking revenge or otherwise – and it was her duty to house them and try to find them peace. To appease them, she employed a work crew, round the clock, day and night, 7 days a week for 37 years, until her death, building new rooms, tearing down old ones, resulting in a 7-story house with more than 100 rooms, staircases that led nowhere, and twisty, unnavigable hallways. But some ghosts were not content with her efforts. Some ghosts demanded more.

I have no problem with the cast, and as you might guess, Helen Mirren is of course a gothic gem. But this movie was all wrong. All wrong. It should never have been a horror film. This is actually a very interesting story that deserved a much better treatment. Sarah Winchester is the kind of character you instinctively want to learn MV5BYmQ0YTZjNzctNWI0MS00ODBlLTk3YjUtZTUwMGY0MjM1N2FjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNTM2Mzc@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_more about, but this movie would have you on Wikipedia rather than provide her any backstory or context. Instead the house is the most compelling character, and all the walking, talking, sentient characters, both alive and dead, are badly neglected. But even the house sort of loses its charms after the film makers’ limited imagination is maxed out. It just feels like all directors Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig are concerned with is shoving as many jump-scares into one movie as humanly, or demonly, possible. And it’s a lot. There will be something terrifying in EVERY corner, in every mirror and reflection, under every bed, in every attic, behind the curtains, and inside the body of every ginger man and boy. They’ve used a very interesting story as the mere setting, and then completely spoiled it with misuse.

Winchester needed to be a drama with supernatural elements, like Sixth Sense, but instead it’s bottom of the barrel horror. I was prepared to be frightened by it (Sean and I even “worked up” to it by viewing Peter Rabbit first) but I wasn’t expecting to pity it, and it’s hard to sustain suspense for a thing you feel sorry for. And I felt bad for Helen Mirren, who would be too good for the tripe even if she herself were a long-dead ghost merely haunting the set. The good news, though, is that she looks terrific in a widow’s mourning veil, so let’s get her in a Guillermo del Toro film, stat!

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29 thoughts on “Winchester

  1. renxkyoko

    Hi, there ! I just watched 2 Japanese series, Violet Evergarden and Million Yen Women on Netflix ! I hope you can watch them, too. I’d love to read what your take on them is. . They are both series , though, about 12 episodes, so you might have to invest about 10 hours for the both of them. I usually watch Japanese movies subbed, rather than dubbed, but in Violet Evergarden’s , the dubbed version is okay.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      That’s very cool. Does it feel creepy there?
      They couldn’t film much on site because so many of the rooms are claustrophobically small, so they had to recreate the set.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. J-Dub

        Not creepy at all. I didn’t realize until later why she kept renovating. Our tour was more to see the architecture than the back story.

        Like

  2. Carrie Rubin

    I saw the movie for the cast and the interesting story behind it, but I agree, it would have been better as a drama that explored Mirren’s character more. Next time I go to San Francisco, I want to visit the place. I think it’s near there. I’m sure it’s fascinating to see.

    Liked by 2 people

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  3. Liz A.

    I’ll save up my money to visit the actual house, then, rather than see the movie. I’m not a horror fan. You’re right, this shouldn’t have been a horror film.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  4. Christopher

    I have friends who live in San Jose and about ten years ago when they invited me to visit the first thing I said was, “Can we tour the Winchester House?” Still haven’t made it, but I was kind of excited when a trailer for this came on and I recognized the place.
    Then the trailer went on and I got less excited. Helen Mirren is absolutely perfect for Sarah Winchester, but you’re right, it deserved to be a drama with supernatural elements, not an overwrought horror film.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      It really did, and I LOVE Helen Mirren so I watched it even though I hate horror and she was quite wonderful though I think underused even in this, and it could have been so much better!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. J.

    Hugely disappointed that they missed an opportunity to do something special with this. I remember being totally fascinated by the whole thing a fair few years ago… but yeah, sounds like the time is better spent browsing the internet for articles and suchlike.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. bookbeachbunny

    I was obsessed with the place back in high school and even got to visit once so I was excited for this movie and your right it could have been so much more! An interesting premise with great talent and honestly I couldn’t even think what to write about it besides what a waste!

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Birgit

    I do want to see this but I knew, from the moment I saw the trailer, I knew it was a lost cause. I want to visit her home and I always felt great sadness for this lady who must be just beside herself with the way many Americans think about their right to guns

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. The Inner Circle

    I used to live in San Jose and went to the house a couple of times,it’s a very interesting story and like others have mentioned,deserved a lot better film then this treatment. I plan on watching this once it hits the 1.50 range at my local video store.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. The Inner Circle

        I won’t lie,the Winchester Mystery House is a very interesting place to see,the tour itself is slightly a mile and you never leave the house proper. You come away feeling really sad for Sarah Winchester,the poor lady had a real soul and was ashamed of how her fortune was gained.

        Like

  9. sportsattitudes

    I agree that the straight horror slant was not the way to go. There is an interesting story and set of characters here. Sixth Sense is a perfect example of where this movie’s direction could have gone. I’m glad I saw it…I just couldn’t recommend it to anyone without the afore-mentioned disclaimer. It failed at what it tried to be.

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    Reply
  10. Bojenn

    Plus, I must add, I hate horror movies, but this one didn’t have any real horrifying scenes. It raised my awareness for her life and I want to know more about her and what she experienced.

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    Reply

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