Firing Blanks - A Review of the New Film Winchester


Ghosts — some believe in them, and some think they are just a figment of a creative imagination. If you believe, they can take over your life, especially if the house the ghosts haunt is your own. Such is the case in the new film Winchester.

Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) is heiress to the Winchester fortune. She has a massive house that she keeps adding rooms to, and she sees ghosts around her at every corner. As she would have you believe, these are the souls of people who have been killed by the Winchester repeating rifle, and they are not at peace.

Outside this monstrous dwelling, onlookers think it is just a woman with too much money and time on her hands, but Sarah is actually creating a prison for these lost souls — an asylum of sorts for many of the most terrifying and vengeful ghosts people have known.

The board members of Winchester’s company are worried. They believe the eccentric woman is going crazy and want some assurance that she is of sound mind and body to continue in her role. To that end they send the grief-stricken Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) to check Sarah out.

Initially a skeptic, Dr. Price soon realizes that crazy is not a term to be used to describe the wealthy Mrs. Winchester. And after further investigation, Price only hopes to be able to leave the ever-growing house in one piece.

Winchester is a film that had amazing promise. Mirren is a talented star who can carry a film with her performance alone and she has acted in a variety of movie genres. The real Winchester Mystery House presented a huge canvas to the filmmakers, including over a hundred rooms to scare us silly. It is the perfect backdrop for a scary film on the outskirts of San Jose, Calif.

But I’m here to tell you Winchester wastes all of this. Were there a couple of sequences that scared me? Of course there were, but those scenes were isolated, and the terror never maintained itself. Despite such a deep tapestry to work from, we spend all our time in a limited portion of the residence. We see a number of ghosts, but there is so much more out there, and it’s just left on the sidelines.

So much promise, but Winchester fully misses the target. Instead of hitting the bullseye and blowing us away, the film ends up firing blanks. I wanted and expected so much more.
Paul’s Grade: C-
Rated PG-13
Stars: Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Jason Clarke
Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
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