Winchester is a classic case of when bad scripts happen to good stories and talented actors.
Here, a doctor is sent to “asses” Sarah Winchester to check if she’s mentally stable enough to run the company. Dr Eric Price is reluctant, but his employer is willing to pay double to cover his debt.
So right off the bat, this isn’t about Sarah Winchester. When she’s introduced, it’s a Wikipedia entry of what we’ve been told. Building upon urban legend, Sara is building a prison for the vengeful spirits of people killed by the Winchester rifle. Eventually, though, she’s used as a vehicle for a depressed drug-addicted doctor to redeem himself.
The quality of horror scenes in this movie is hinted at in the beginning. Price, high as fuck, sees blood dripping on the painting. When he arrives at the house, more schlock horror is delivered.
A kid wakes up in the middle of the night and stands in the hallway with a sack over his head. This Orphanage rip-off goes on predictably – after being revealed as a fake-out, he points to a flight of stairs leading to nowhere and hints at the big bad. This scene summarizes what Winchester can offer – tired and perfunctory.
As a result, the movie is devoid of tension, suspense, mystery, and honest scares. The overqualified cast – Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, and Sarah Snook – can’t save it either as they’re stuck with stereotypical characters. They all deserved better, but I totally understand if this was a paycheck gig.
The movie finishes with low budget effects and locking up ghosts with bolted doors.
But these below-average offerings is not Winchester’s biggest sin. The movie’s writers and directors turned what could have been an interesting story about a millionaire Widow into a poor man’s version of The Woman in Black.
Winchester could have been a psychological horror movie about a woman whose life is accompanied by so much tragedy that you’re not sure whether she’s going crazy or she’s unfairly being persecuted by karma. Winchester could also have been about a misunderstood widow who used her fortune and architecture as a way to deal with grief. And simply, it could have been an old ghost story done well.
But this Winchester is written by writers who opted to tell a white guy’s run-in-the-mill tale about loss and grief.
The Widow and The Winchester, an episode from the Criminal podcast, told a far more interesting story in 22 minutes and 25 seconds.
Winchester is a dull horror movie that wasted an intriguing character, a perfect setting, and Helen Mirren's talents.