- Product Rating -


| February 2, 2018

There’s something to be said about movies that use their genre tropes for the sake of exploring contemporary issues. Dawn of the Dead, Under the Skin, and Get Out explored consumerism, rape culture, and racism in America, respectively, and while leagues of others exist on a similar plane, Winchester now crashes into such company with similar aspirations. The issue here is that when a movie is silly and doesn’t know that it’s silly, its intentions and ideologies become something to be derided almost automatically. A supernatural gun control fable, Winchester sounds like a joke, and while it could have made for an endearing satire, its dog-slow pace and inability to understand its absurdity immediately reduces any and all of its rhetoric into a sleep-inducing cloud of smoke.

Directed by twin brothers Michael and Peter Spierig (Jigsaw), who rewrote Tom Vaughn’s script, the film is ostensibly based on actual events—if that’s the case, real life is much funnier than I ever thought. In 1906 San Francisco, psychic medium Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is summoned by Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) to her family mansion. The wife of gun manufacturer William Winchester, who created the iconic rifle named after him, Sarah lives with her niece (Sarah Snook) and believes that those that died by being shot with a Winchester rifle have come to haunt her. According to her, they command her to have more and more rooms built, causing the manor to grow at an exponential rate, but their bitterness can’t be entirely maintained as the spirits grow increasingly malevolent.

Such an idea could either be engaging or enraging depending on execution. Alas, Winchester veers towards the latter, albeit taking a detour towards sheer apathy along the way. If the film is to be given credit, it’s due to some admittedly creepy moments during act one that, while a bit derivative, are still realized with enough of a patience to tease its audience. Mirren is obviously talented and Clarke is a watchable if unremarkable everyman, and their presences provide a bit more respect to the endeavor, even if it isn’t a whole lot. The use of the the film’s horror-101 sound design is inherently creepy in a few fleeting moments, and some flourishes from cinematographer Ben Nott are decent, but final product overall is just drab.

It’s a horror film that has the intention of being a slow burn, but the direction and script don’t allow for nearly enough emotional connection. Characters are thin and pacing is slow, which proves to be a match made in hell for some stretches of the movie’s 99-minute duration (which feels much longer). The mythology at hand is inadequate and makes several lines of dialogue worthy of an eye roll, and despite having some ideas with potential, the film doesn’t know how to realize them. Similarly, the cinematography often carries the highly desaturated and uninteresting look seen in early-2010s horror releases, undercutting the brief moments of aesthetic success.

But overall, Winchester is dull, despite the number of lives supposedly on the line. But in a way, that sort of banality runs fittingly parallel to the emptiness of its characters. It plays it safe throughout and while it tries to lay on the tension to an oppressive extent, the threat is as hollow as its metaphysical antagonists, providing for a feature that’s comprised of hot air when it isn’t punctuated by an unintentional giggle or a slap to the back of the head in the form of one its many jump scares. Regardless on whether or not one agrees with its ideologies at hand, it’s just dumb and happens to have ghosts. Boo, I guess.

About the Author:

Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
Filed in: Horror, Now Playing

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