Movie Review: Winchester is an Awful Waste

Movie Review: Winchester is an Awful Waste
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Truly awful movies with no redeeming qualities are rare in cinemas. Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built, however, is the most boring horror film of the century. It’s thoroughly tedious and unenjoyable from start to finish.

Writers and Directors The Spirieg Brothers have completely ignored every opportunity to add something exciting or scary to the story. Inspired by true events, the story is set at the famous Winchester mansion outside San Fransisco, and a doctor’s visit (Jason Clarke) in 1906 when he discovers there might be ghosts lurking around.

So how come the film is so uninteresting and disastrous? The formulaic plot rips off every cliche a haunted house movie could possibly have. A wholly predictable story told without any creativity or joy makes the final product exceedingly dull.

There’s an ominous prologue before an overlong exposition. What follows is half an hour of bloated, unimportant dialogue and endless walking through dark, candlelit halls. There’s several flashback scenes that are equally sombre and cheesy. (All of which become more off-putting when they interrupt the action every ten minutes.)

The unscary screenplay makes no sense

Once the “haunting” begins, the horror tropes get even worse. Of course the young boy looks under his bed. Of course the doctor goes exploring a dark, eerie basement. And why is everyone going into the locked, supposedly haunted greenhouse?

The script is stuffed with contradictions that poke holes through an already implausible concept. It’s strange, for example, that the Winchester estate only has three floors, though a character claims “the mansion is seven stories tall.”

Most moments that contain short jump shares are devoid of suspense, and all are cheap. (The same trick where someone slows goes to a door and discovers there’s someone harmless on the other side is repeated three times.)

Photo: CBS Films.

Other supposedly frightening scenes are ineffectively edited; the camera never shows us what we should really be focusing on. I could always tell when something was coming. There’s no tension if the audience can always expect when something’s going to try and scare us.

I myself get scared in horror movies easily, and often jump or quiver in my seat. Last year’s hits like Split, Get Out and It left me weak and breathless in the theatre. Winchester didn’t scare me even once.

Cinematography and script aren’t the only technical issues, either. The visual effects are cheap. The glamorous sets, while lavish, appear much too clean. The end product has an inappropriate too-slick and synthetic look.

Maybe worst of all is the obvious ending the filmmakers spend 80 agonizing minutes building up to. Without spoiling what happens, I can’t say anything positive about the finale. There are two ending twists that are painfully stupid.

It’s a never-ending catastrophe

The list of weaknesses and disappointments goes on and on and on. Halfway through, I became more interested in repeatedly checking my watch than watching the screen. The only thing resembling a theme or moral is an extreme anti-gun viewpoint, and even that doesn’t comment or expose any new opinions.

Yes, Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester is fine enough. She also doesn’t appear until more than half an hour into the movie. The rest of the cast is unforgivably cold and emotionless. Mirren deserves to be in better movies than this.

If there’s only one thing you remember, make it this: There is no audience who I can suggest or recommend seeing this film. I polled all fourteen other attendees at my fan preview show and it was a unanimous vote. Nobody would recommend seeing it to their friends.

The scariest thing to come from watching Winchester, and only remotely scary thing at all, would be the ghost that would become of your time and money.

Winchester
0 out of 4 stars

14A, 1hr 40mins. Horror Drama.
Written and Directed by Peter and Michael Spierig.
Starring Jason Clarke, Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook and Thor Carlsson.
Now Playing at Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

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