Directed By: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Written By: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Run Time: 99 mins.
Just like many tourist traps, the Winchester Mystery House has become old hat. Just like The Mystery Spot, California’s Moaning Caverns, or Ripley’s Believe It or Not - it’s no longer special. It is not special, or one would think, because we have the internet. My 14 yr. old niece would dismiss it. “Why would I go when I can just look at pictures of it online?”
The Winchester movie might just be the best advertising campaign to go to that San Jose tourist trap that has ever happened. Because now it’s been rebranded. It’s no longer a kooky “mystery” house built by a crazy lady. Oh look honey! There are doors that lead nowhere! Wackity-Schmackity! It’s now a house that is “haunted” and filled with “demons” and “lost souls.” It has been rebranded because the film ‘Winchester’ creates a fun ride that explains the lore of the house, why there were so many rooms, and almost dares you to visit it now.
Writer and director team, Michael and Peter Spierig, craft a wonderfully entertaining story about how Mrs. Winchester (Helen Mirren), heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, uses her house as a conduit for the dead. She does this in order to protect her family that also lives in the house. I know. She sounds crazy. You wouldn’t be the only ones to think so, as the trustee board of The Winchester Rifle company has commissioned a doctor, Eric Price (Jason Clarke); to live at the house for a short period of time and determine if Mrs. Winchester is of sound body and mind to continue running the Winchester Rifle Company. Forced to sober up and stop using recreational hallucinogens, Dr. Price soon discovers that what Mrs. Winchester is really doing is allowing herself to become a medium for spirits. The spirits tell her to draw up blueprints for rooms, and she has them built in order that the spirits may “cross over.”
What is really cool about this story is that it is not like ‘The Conjuring’ or ‘The Ring’ where the events happen in a completely fictional world. The Winchester Mansion in San Jose is an actual place, and the movie was actually shot there. While as a horror movie, if you have seen any of the aforementioned horror movies, no new trails are being blazed here. It has elements of several films like ‘The House On Haunted Hill,’ ‘The Haunting’,‘Crimson Peak,’ and ‘The Exorcist;’ so you really should know what to expect here. But one thing worth mentioning is not the jump scares themselves, but the way the jump scares are executed is fantastic. This makes the movie a lot of fun to watch if you like horror. I have seen a lot of movies, I have seen a lot of horror movies, so I generally know what to expect and when to expect it, because a lot of the time it’s formulaic. In this film it is not. The jump scares are many but they are varied and really can happen at any time, or at least they are made to feel that way. ‘Winchester’ is worth seeing for this reason. Even moments where the movie might feel hammy or ridiculous are made less so by the stellar performances of the main cast members: Helen Mirren (The Queen), Jason Clarke (Mudbound), and Sarah Snook (Black Mirror).
Given the fact that ‘Winchester’ is about a woman who is heiress to a fortune all based off of the selling and manufacturing of guns, the films political undertones can be a bit heavy. Cautionary themes of gun control and gun violence are both blatantly said through dialogue and implied by character’s motivations. We do live in a very scary time - with school shootings on the rise. That being said, they are not necessarily shoehorned in, but particular sequences in the film go out of their way to take a firm stance for tighter gun control. Mrs. Winchester puts it best when she says: “Regardless of the intent of the person holding the gun, it is an instrument that is designed to kill.”
I enjoyed ‘Winchester.’ Knowing little about it besides the fact that it was a tourist attraction, got me in the seats, but the history, the plot, and the twist ending is really what kept me there. Sure the movie is not the scariest, you won’t have to sleep with the lights on or anything, but it is a fun ride with little jolts here and there to keep you on your toes. WIth the excellent performances, it’s enough to keep your attention at least and is definitely worth the $10 bucks or whatever you cough up to at least see it once. But this is definitely a one and done type of film. What are they going to make ‘Winchester 2: Reloaded?’