Movie Review: "Winchester" (2018)
History and horror. It's a dangerous mix, fraught with peril and rich with possibility. Given the subject matter and our continued fascination with America's most famous haunted mansion, this one should have been a home run. I say should have because I'm going to have to give it a solid ground-rule double. That's not so bad, though.
Why a ground-rule double? That's pretty easy. It comes off the bat like a rocket, heading toward dead center. You're not sure of the legs it's going to have on it, but it looks so good leaving the bat that you find your fat ass coming out of the seat a bit. Suddenly it drops hard, and you can see that it's not a home run. You're a little disappointed....and then it bounces just right and goes over the outfield wall. It's a solid double with no chance of getting thrown out.
It's also sort of anticlimactic.
I'm not accustomed to being that hard on something that I went into with zero expectations. I'm an overly fair reviewer because I am Hollywood's ideal viewer. I love being transported to the good old land of make believe; it's how I got through my early years and the hardships contained therein. So sue me.
Still, I like it when things finish and live up to their potential (and I'm not talking about my sex life here). There was so much to like at certain times, but the momentum would halt as quickly as it came (are we sure I'm not talking about my sex life here?).
There really was a lot to like about this one, though. When you've got Dame Helen Mirren in your movie you can at least be sure that there will be at least one excellent performance. I don't know if she knows how to turn in a bad job, and she crushes it as Sarah Winchester. I'm not sure if the real Sarah wore that black mourning dress 24/7, but I get it in terms of the aesthetic of the crazy, spirit obsessed, elderly widow. Jason Clarke also turns in a stout performance as the laudanum addicted psychiatrist sent to determine the mental state of the Winchester widow at the behest of the company.
The set design is fantastic, and the costume work is damn solid. It's a functional and polished period piece. The music was adequate in the classic jump scare style.
And can we talk about those damn jump scares? Let's do that.
There's nothing wrong with a jump scare in and of itself. A jump scare in a horror film (especially a Gothic haunting film) is absolutely necessary and perfectly okay, but for fuck's sake would you pace yourself a little? This felt like one jump scare after another at the expense of the development of the finer points of the story. Although I will say the jump scares were deftly done and well timed. Serious points for execution and delivery.
I'm not shitting on this movie; don't get me wrong. I was entertained. It engaged my lizard brain in that talking to the screen fashion that an effective horror movie does. The tone and the atmosphere were spot-on. It wasn't bad.
It simply could have been so much more with that ripe subject matter. I'm going to give it a 5.5/10 rating and an imperative to finish the damn job! Don't be afraid to make a true gothic horror story that dares to appeal the heart and soul as opposed to the fear gland.