Horror Club: Winchester
Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built - one of the first supernatural films to kick off 2018 - hit theaters this weekend, and its an exciting journey into the hidden secrets of an a millionaire heiress's secret life. The film was directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, and it was written by the Spierig Brothers along with Tom Vaughn. The story follows that of Sarah Winchester, the real life widow of gun manufacturer William Winchester of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. After the death of her husband and infant child, Sarah (portrayed by Helen Mirren) was struck with an immense amount of grief, as anyone in her position would be. But the Board of Directors at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company - responsible for the Winchester rifle and full range of guns - begin to grow worrisome of Sarah and her sanity: since the death of her husband, she has been spending her money on endless construction on her house. For 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, construction crews are on-site at the property building rooms and breaking down rooms, building odd staircases that lead to the ceiling and even doors that open to nothingness. The company hires Dr. Eric Price (played by Jason Clarke) to evaluate the mental state of Sarah Winchester, and to determine if she is mentally fit to maintain her leadership role at the company. Dr. Prices moves into the house, along with Sarah's niece Marian Marriott (played by Sarah Snook) and her son, and is instantly taken away by the sheer size and endless maze that makes up the Winchester household. It isn't long before figures begin to appear to Dr. Price, and unexplainable events begin to occur around the house that he just cannot begin to comprehend logically. The Winchester claims that these hauntings are the result of her family's responsibility (or lack thereof) of the product they made their fortune from: the Winchester rifle. Sarah claims that that presence in the room, causing the hairs on the back of your next to stand up... yeah, that is the result of an unjustified death at the hands of a Winchester weapon, and that the souls of those killed are haunting her because they have not yet found rest. Has Mrs. Winchester absolutely lost her mind, or is there some truth to the bizarre occurrences at the Winchester Mystery House?
The story - which actually does have some truth to it - to Winchester is a pretty fantastic and remarkable one; truth aside, I love that the story takes a real-life product/company and ties it into the story. In doing so, it makes the story being told on screen to feel just that much more natural, more real. Plot-wise, I was honestly pretty impressed with how the story unfolded and thought there was a lot of creative details included in the film. It was the story that drew me into wanting to see the movie to begin with, and I was super into it the whole time. The house was pretty breath-taking too; the film does a good job showing you an in-depth look into the fine details of the household, including many of the weird doors to nowhere and creative inventions Sarah included in her house. The staff, from the butlers and maids to the construction crews, are frequently seen buzzing by, and is a nice little detail added to each scene. If you're like me, you'll find yourself falling in love with both the interior and exterior of the architecture; it's a breath-taking and even overwhelming sight, and it certainly portrays the real-life Winchester Mystery House in an honorable way. The four characters you see the most often throughout the film - Sarah Winchester, Dr. Eric Price, Marian Marriott, and her son Henry - all clearly come from different backgrounds but all four are very likable, even little Henry who could definitely come across as creepy in pretty much every scene he's included in. Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke, in particular, did a bang-up job in their delivery of their roles, and the constant back-and-forth between the two is definitely entertaining and interesting. As Dr. Price begins his questioning of Mrs. Winchester, it doesn't take long for her to flip the conversation to be about Dr. Price and his beliefs, instead of what may or may not be plaguing Sarah. Helen Mirren absolutely slays her role as Sarah Winchester, and after seeing the movie, I feel like it's hard to even place another actress in her shoes: she was an excellent choice for the face of Sarah Winchester.
Since its release, I've seen a few reviews going around saying that the film is boring and doesn't exactly take you anywhere (much like those crazy staircases in the house). While the climax of the film definitely left more to be desired, I didn't exactly find the movie boring or even super slow, like some reviews suggested. I think Winchester moves at the pace it should, since it's definitely more about story-telling than it is action and jump scares. Speaking of jump scares, there is really only a small handful amount of them in Winchester, and only one that really stood out (and I doubt it would even stand out if you're not seeing it in theaters). But like I said, the climax and ending - while it does tie into the story line fine - feels just a little shy of how epic it could (and should) have been. It brings the story to where it needs to be to draw a conclusion, but it does so in a way that I can see why some might suggest it is boring. There was no real... oomph... to it. The final scenes bring the story to its predictable ending, and doesn't really add anything extra to it. But overall, Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built ended up being worth the watch (and even worth the ticket price) to me: the film drew me in, kept me entertained, and delivered a fun little paranormal story. While it was nothing game-changing or award-winning, Winchester wound up being better than I expected and I would even re-watch. Now let's just hope my final moments aren't meant with the barrel of a Winchester...