Movie Review: 'Winchester' (2018)
Oscar winner Helen Mirren and Aussie star Jason Clarke in a horror film that keeps us intrigued—for the most part.
Hello, one and all.
I often wary of movies that are "based on true stories," or "inspired by true events," if only for the fact that it's just code for "We're just giving you the more bullshit version of a story that is purported to be a true story." That being said, Winchester or the much longer, box-office worthy title: Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built manages to tell an intriguing story that seems to have some root in fact. Fact: the name is indeed synonymous with the iconic rifle and firearm company. Fact: it seems to know the players of that story inside and out. Fact: it was filmed in the actual home where said hauntings and paranormal events had occurred.
OK, I cannot delineate that as an actual fact, but I wanted to see if any of you were paying attention.
Winchester is the second Spierig Brothers movie to be released after the absolutely diarrheatic torture porn reboot, Jigsaw, from last year. I was actually expecting something even more subpar this time around. That would be a real head-scratcher since I don't think Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren would attach her name to something that was closely resembling landfill. To my shock, surprise, and utter delight, it wasn't the fiasco I expected. Realize of course, that I do follow the Rotten Tomatoes school of movie rankings and I know that this movie is somewhere between horse manure and seeped inside the earth to act as fertilizer.
Nope. To my amazement, I didn't hate it. I didn't exactly love it either. No, this film isn't Poltergeist set in a Victorian mansion at the start of the 20th century. But the film's old school opening credits weren't lost on me, either. It clearly intended to entice us, the audience, by introducing us to characters who are straight out of 60s and 70s horror movie scenarios. The doped-up doc who swallows medicinal ether-like Pez candy, but can still function. The curmudgeonly, eccentric old woman who is not insane, but isn't about to blaspheme the spirit world either. The creepy ginger child who is the vessel for an otherworldly demon and his mother, the concerned niece who almost never does anything too motherly.
The 2018 Poster
Plot gist. Dr. Eric Price (Aussie actor Jason Clarke known for playing mostly villains) is summoned to the Winchester mansion at the behest of her board of directors to check to see if Sarah Winchester (Mirren who epitomizes cool in every role she takes on) is losing her marbles. It would appear so considering she's become a recluse; is constantly altering the mansion to suit her needs. She has her niece (Sarah Snook) and grand-nephew looking out for her interests, never mind the fact that ghosts haunting the place keep her oblivious to the "keep him safe" house protocol.
After several sessions, Dr. Price becomes a witness to the fact that Mrs. Winchester's home is a haven for angry spirits who were all victims of her product. They were all murdered by her firearms and are now on the hunt for some serious netherworldly karma towards her and her family. She can't keep them at bay for much longer and the now semi-sober good doctor may even be the key to stopping all this drama by fessing his role in Mrs. Winchester's product being the one close call that may redeem her and her home.
In closing, Winchester is a solid guilty pleasure that boasts a few really good scares and two terrific performances that feed off each other's manic energy. Mirren adds a surprising amount of depth to her guilt-ridden, beleaguered gun matriarch and Clarke brings a brooding, restrained, almost pensive intelligence to his tortured doctor character. When I saw the trailer, I actually joked out loud that this was the first horror thriller targeting the NRA. No, not really, but it has an innate, goofy charm that kept me interested almost all throughout. Will the film break box office records and be remembered three months from now? I highly doubt it. But that doesn't mean it didn't entertain and perhaps thrill me for the time allotted.
As for the "inspired by true events" tagline...my future life story will indeed be "inspired by true events" with Oscar winner George Clooney playing me—opposite Helen Mirren playing my mom.
Rated PG-13 for intense supernatural horror sequences—none of them too bloody that you can't handle them.