Saturday, February 10, 2018

[Review] Winchester

If you're like me, you've learned a lot about the infamous Winchester Mystery House aka "The House that Spirits Built" from various haunting/paranormal shows on the Travel and History channels. Now, the legend has been taken to the big screen, and despite collapsing toward the end, it's a pretty well-constructed haunted house flick.

Helen Mirren plays Mrs. Winchester, a grieving widow to the treasurer of the famous gun manufacturer. She believes she's cursed and is being haunted by all the victims of the Winchester rifle, so she takes the mass fortune she was left with and uses it in order to build onto her ever-sprawling mansion -- because that's what the spirits tell her to do (hence - The House that Spirits Built). In turn, a doctor (played by Jason Clarke) is called upon to assess Mrs. Winchester's sanity. Is she losing her mind? Or does she have a point about the ghosts occupying her home?

Jason Clarke is commendably convincing here, especially for a character in such a peculiar situation, and it's intriguing as he begins to question his own sanity. It's no surprise that Helen Mirren is as solid as can be, selling this eccentric role with a stern and spiritual gusto, while playing it with more depth and intuition instead of just being some kooky old cranky lady. But as good as the main cast is, it's truly the house that becomes the grand attraction. The film has a great sense of atmosphere and setting, and it's cool to see such a place come to cinematic life. First of all, the mansion is COLOSSAL -- the maze-like structure is filled with trap doors, staircases that lead to nowhere, and a prominent motif of the number 13 runs throughout design. Safe to say, it's a creepy place to wander around at night, and that's putting it lightly. The mansion is essentially a hot bed for a plethora of ghouls -- strange noises emerge from every direction, and you never know what you're going to run into around any given corner, or what lurks within the home's countless number of rooms. This makes for some jarring jump scares. And I mean JARRING.

Of course, things lurch into ridiculous and over-the-top territory toward the final act, and unfortunately, the story loses some of its initial mystique. It's as if the filmmakers themselves couldn't build to a proper conclusion and ended up pounding themselves into a wall. This is the type of film where subtlety could've gone a very long way. Still, everything that comes before is quite sturdy and serviceable.

( 7/10 )

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