Film Review: "Winchester" has the right message, just a slow and exhausting delivery
Winchester is not a film that I was looking forward to. I tried to go against my gut (and the 11% Rotten Tomatoes score) and attend the screening. Who knows? I wasn't looking forward to Only the Brave and it turned out to be one of my favourite movies of 2018. Maybe I'll eat my words again.
Nope. I was right. My words remain uneaten.
The Winchester Mansion is an interesting enough setting. Owned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of rifle magnate William Wirt Winchester, the home was rumoured to be haunted by the spirits of those who had died at the hand of a Winchester firearm. Convinced of the curse, Sarah put her inheritance towards the continuous construction of the mansion, with construction lasting 38 years. Stairs that led to nowhere and non-functioning bathrooms were used to confuse the spirits, making the home a popular tourist attraction in the San Jose area.
Winchester attempts to take on this story, creating something half-interesting for the audience. The anti-gun message is introduced, but it doesn't lead anywhere. There is a conflict, but between all of the jump scares and poor CGI, the audience isn't really satisfied with the resolution. There is a possessed child (complete with cataract eye effects), but no reason for him to be there besides the fact that he gets possessed sometimes. The film begins with such potential, but there is no pay off.
Helen Mirren (Sarah Winchester) and Jason Clarke (Eric Price) do their best with what they are provided, but unfortunately their dialogue it isn't enough to keep you engaged. The plentiful jump scares do an excellent job of keeping the audience awake at the start, but by the end they were overused, cheap, and ineffective. By the time we reached jump scare #8, we were barely a third into the film, making future scares more expected and comedic than their intention.
Directed by the Spierig brothers (Peter and Michael Spierig), most recently known for their addition to the Saw franchise with Jigsaw, the film worked with a considerably low budget. This unfortunately showed through in the CGI, however, the set and costume design was outstanding. When Eric Price first enters the mansion, we are able to take in the eccentricities of the mansion while still giving the indication that it's a constant construction zone.
I don't want to belabour this. This wasn't an enjoyable film. It wasn't one of those "so bad, it's good" movies. It wasn't something that I could drink and watch with friends (sidenote: I highly recommend doing this with Bright). The flaw with Winchester is that it leads to nothing.