Bland as all get-out and not nearly as much fun as reading about the authentic history of the Winchester House, “Winchester” is a misfortune of a horror movie about the so-called Winchester curse.
Siblings Michael and Peter Spierig, who directed the enjoyable “Jigsaw,” wrote the unexciting script with Tom Vaughan. It’s supposedly based on the true story of the eccentric Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren).
Some of the story is based closely on what really transpired. Sarah Winchester really did believe that spirits haunted the mansion she never stopped building. She kept workers busy throughout the years as they constructed all kinds of rooms, some with trap doors, some with doors leading nowhere, and many containing details based on the number 13 and a spider web motif of which she was fond.
The movie is set in 1906. Representatives of the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. ask Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke, “Zero Dark Thirty”) to examine Sarah Winchester and write a report about her mental capacity and whether she still remained in stable enough to run the company.
Price, himself a laudanum addict and a man wrestling with his own past, arrives to spend several nights in the house.
Sarah, who always dresses in elaborate black mourning clothes, has all kinds of reasons for her every decision.
Sarah’s niece Marian (Sarah Snook, “Steve Jobs”) has a son named Henry (Finn Scicluna-O'Prey) with an attitude. He begins to sleepwalk, then eventually to threaten others, including himself.
It’s no spoiler to tell you that what comes next are a series of “Boo!” moments, a kind of “Omen”-esque episode involving Henry, a spirit-driven roller skate, and of course Price wondering whether what he sees is a manifestation of laudanum and his own demons or whatever is dwelling in the house.
What a waste of Mirren, Clarke and the rest of the ensemble. I don’t remember seeing a more ridiculous finale to a horror movie. It goes against the grain of everything that comes before, switching gears to a new, unexpected and completely illogical reality.
The movie does work very well in one way: It made me curious about the house. After I read about its history, I became fascinated by the tourist attraction, which is bound to brim this year with visitors regardless of the movie’s quality.
If you’re really interested in the house, you’d be better off to stash away the price of a ticket and save toward a trip to San Jose than to waste your money on this less-than-mediocre flick.