Release Date: February 2, 2018
Runtime: 99 minutes
Directed by The Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers, Jigsaw)
Written by Tom Vaughan (Victoria, Dr. Foster), The Spierig Brothers
Cinematography by Ben Nott (Predestination, The Company)
Music by Peter Spierig
Produced by Tim McGahan (Predestination, Caravan), Brett Tomberlin (Ellen, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno)
Starring Helen Mirren (Caligula, The Queen), Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Terminator: Genisys), Sarah Snook (The Dressmaker, Steve Jobs)
Based on a true story, Winchester catalogues the events surrounding the Winchester mansion in San Francisco, California in 1906. Before we delve into the story, I’ll give you a few of my thoughts on Winchester.
There were few shots of San Francisco in the film, but most images were clearly green screened. The most we see of the city is Dr. Eric Prince’s (Clarke) residence and some of the Winchester front office. That’s really it. Most of the film was shot in the Winchester residence, so there aren’t many shots of the city or attention to city life in 1906. Running at 99 minutes, the movie paced quickly through the story and didn’t have much time for frills. However, there were some captivating elements that I found.
While most shots seemed green-screened and cheap, there was some elegant furniture and décor in the Winchester mansion. If woodworking and carpentry interest you, there’ll be plenty to enjoy walking through the various rooms of the house. Mrs. Sarah Winchester (Mirren) spares no expense, and the architecture of her seven story home confirms it.
In the way of Easter eggs, there’s a portrait of a white-tailed deer in Eric’s residence. Remember that deer, because you’ll see its portrait again hanging in the gun display room that Mrs. Winchester builds, and you will also see it engraved on one of the rifles used. Does the deer mean anything? I don’t think so, but I’ll pay close attention if I see the movie again to see if there’s a hidden meaning. Also, pay attention to Eric’s garden room when we first meet him; that will have significance later in the film. There weren’t a great deal of hidden gems, but there were enough to keep me interested. Now, for the story…
Mrs. Winchester is a widow of twenty-five years and has had her home under constant, 24/7 construction for the past twenty-two years. She proclaims it as “The House that ghosts built”, and it is indeed a place of architectural oddity and brilliance. Her husband left her a healthy sum of money and 51% of the Winchester Company. Because of her persistence in constantly renovating her home while neglecting the betterment of the company, the board of directors seeks a physician to assess her state of mind in hopes that they will assume the majority control of the company. Since she owns 51% of the company, she chooses her own physician and has decided upon Eric.
Dr. Eric Prince is an articulate psychiatrist, a grieving widower, and a drug abuser. For some reason, Mrs. Winchester has hand-picked him to examine her, and he will wonder why until the last moments of the movie. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, and even though his late wife did and Mrs. Winchester does, he writes off any visions he sees as withdrawals from his medication. He is in for a rude awakening.
Winchester didn’t do anything different from any other ghost and thriller movie, but it was still a decent film to watch with a few twists and turns. It helps to have Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke, who were easily the best actors on the film, portray the story’s main characters. Unfortunately, I found that the best scenes of the film were given away in the previews, so don’t expect a whole lot of new thrill scenes.
In short, Winchester is a sufficient, watchable film that is also forgettable.
I’m going to give Winchester a 63%.