‘Winchester’ is spooky–and hokey
Supposedly inspired by “actual events,” the horror film “Winchester” jolts with some genuinely surprising imagery, recounting the story of a “cursed” woman who atones for the wrongdoings of her deceased husband’s gun manufacturing company.
Set in California in 1906, the film tells the tale of widow Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), whose sanity is being questioned. The Winchester brand of rifles is well-known, but the wealthy heiress, who’s thought to be unhinged because of the deaths of her husband and child, feels guilt for all the lives that the guns have taken.
Enter the boozing, drug-using and grief-stricken doctor, Eric Price (Jason Clarke), who is tasked to “assess” if she is still fit to be part of the Winchester company. But, for his well-paid new assignment, he has to stay clean and sober, to properly assess Sarah’s sanity.
Sarah is having her mansion constructed, every day of the entire week—the design has no rhyme nor reason, like a hodgepodge of eclectic architectural elements, for some odd reason. She believes that those killed by the weapons inhabit her house until they move on from the earthly plane.
Eric is skeptical, but witnesses firsthand the weirdness when he is confronted by disturbing occurrences that science can’t explain.
Directed by Peter and Michael Spierig (“Jigsaw”), “Winchester” generates some chilling scenes, which ultimately get dampened by hokey parts that attempt to explain some of its mysteries.
Mirren and Clarke, however, add integrity and depth to the endeavor—the former as the sensitive eccentric who appeases unearthly contacts, and the latter as the pained but coping survivor of a life gone terribly wrong.
The real mansion, built nonstop for 38 years, is the subject of haunted house legends, which the film creatively sheds light on. It’s bizarre but amusing to see Mirren as a conduit for the departed.
But, scenes meant to conjure up danger are hit-and-miss, and creepy beings that can be seen for more than a split-second lose their otherworldly “charm.”
“Winchester” initially manages to frighten with inventive use of familiar tricks, but ultimately, it resolves its inexplicable conflicts too easily.