Although slightly better than some other modern-horrors, ‘Winchester’ is nothing incredibly memorable. Despite the film’s story being based on true events and having some decent performances throughout, the film still suffers from mostly a bland atmosphere and enormous over-reliance on jump-scares. Resulting in a mostly boring experience.
The story focuses on: ‘Sarah Winchester’ in the year 1906, as a firearm heiress mourning the loss of her family. She believes she is haunted by the souls of people killed by the ‘Winchester’ repeating rifle. So ‘Doctor Eric Price’ is soon summoned to her ever-growing home in California to inspect her sanity by order of her company.
A story like this isn’t anything new for sure, we’ve all heard the ‘based on a true story’ or ‘haunted by my past’ storyline a thousand times before. However, they were a few elements of this story I did enjoy, the main two protagonists of the film, that being: ‘Doctor Eric Price’ portrayed by Jason Clark, and ‘Sarah Winchester’ portrayed by Helen Mirren both give decent performances and their characters are given some depth. The same cannot be said for the side characters of ‘Marion Marriott’ and ‘Henry Marriott’ however, as these characters are given no characterisation barley and do so little within the narrative I was constantly questioning their inclusion.
The film overall has an extremely bland look, as the dim grey colour palette alongside the mostly still and uninventive cinematography by Ben Nott make the film very dull visually. The original score by Peter Spierig also doesn’t benefit the film much, as the soundtrack is you usual horror score with nothing really interesting about it, other than the occasional moment when it becomes uncomfortably loud. There is the occasional pleasing shot or interesting idea here, but it’s definitely few and far between.
Despite the location and the time-period of the film actually being some of the main draws towards it (considering most horrors are usually set within modern-day) and with the ‘Winchester Mansion’ being a real haunted attraction in America. I was very disappointed to find the location barley utilised, as aside from one short scene in the film where the doctor explores an eerie dark hallway, the mansion is mostly confined to a few different rooms throughout the runtime.
The film also (as usual) has a heavy-reliance on jump-scares, which means the film barley even makes an attempt to build tension. The film seems more in favour of fading out all of the audio before leading into a loud screeching sound while a ‘terrifying’ face appears on-screen. This is an issue with many modern-horrors in all fairness, and feels like nothing other than laziness on the filmmaker’s part.
‘Winchester’ is certainly not one of the worst horrors I’ve ever seen. However, it is a big waste of potential, as I feel a story set within the walls of the: ‘Winchester Mansion’ could have been really interesting if the film would’ve gotten inventive with the iconic location they had at their deposal. But as is, the weak characters, bland visuals and dull atmosphere add up to a very forgettable modern-horror. In conclusion, I’d say ‘Winchester’ is worthy of about a 3/10, shame it couldn’t achieve higher. But judging by the director’s other works, this is a pretty standard score for their films.