Review: Winchester

6 10

PLOT: A dissolute psychiatrist (Jason Clarke) is hired by the Winchester gun company to perform a psychiatric evaluation of the company’s largest shareholder, Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), who believes she’s a medium and is bent on bringing peace to the countless victims of her company’s rifles.

REVIEW: Fans of the paranormal no doubt already know plenty about heiress Sarah Winchester and her infamous mansion, the so-called Winchester Mystery House. An intriguing, larger-than-life character, it was only a matter of time before she got her own THE CONJURING-style blockbuster, and here it is via the talented Spierig Brothers. An interesting pair, they’re capable of both films for hire (JIGSAW) as well as truly novel genre entries like the under seen PREDESTINATION.

WINCHESTER plays out like a hybrid of both types, with it shot within the confines of a PG-13 horror flick, but still having enough spunk and personality to attract a heavyweight like Helen Mirren to the title role. Oddly, this perfectly proficient thriller didn’t screen for critics at all, a fate usually reserved for only the worst-of-the-worst. This unfairly labels what’s actually a so-so movie as an all-out stinker, something it’s too slick to be.

One piece of misdirection though might be the ads selling Helen Mirren’s titular character as our lead. If anything, she’s a meaty supporting part, with the lion’s share of screen time going to Jason Clarke. Playing a laudanum-addicted psychiatrist recovering from a bullet-wound (fired by – you guessed it – a Winchester), he’s bailed out of dire financial straits by the Winchester company, with the idea being that he’ll write Sarah up as insane – allowing the board to replace her.

Naturally, once he arrives at the San Jose estate, it doesn’t take long for him to realize Lady Winchester is on to something, with a particularly pesky phantom haunting her beloved grand-nephew, the son of her devoted niece (PREDESTINATION’s Sarah Snook).

The gothic mystery part of the film is where WINCHESTER fares best, with Mirren always beguiling as the lady in question. She commits fully to the part, and elevates the material considerably. Clarke has a meatier than usual part as well, playing his addled shrink in a way that brings to mind Clive Owen in “The Knick” crossed with Orson Wells. Once the big bad is revealed, WINCHESTER takes a more predictable, franchise friendly route, but at its worst the film is never less than watchable.

Fans of the Mystery House will be happy to know that some of the film was shot there, although the majority of the production was done in Australia, with a big cast of character actors from that region. Overall, it’s a handsome film that’s not especially scary, but should please genre fans to an extent. It reminded me a bit of old forties chillers like THE UNINVITED or Val Lewton B-pics. It falls apart when the actual carnage starts, but again – it’s perfectly serviceable.

Source: JoBlo.com



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