Winchester: Film Review
Cast: Jason Clark, Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook
Director: The Spierig Brothers
Anchored in a potentially intriguing concept, The Spierig Brother's haunted house spooker Winchester is an exercise in genre ticking and trope crossing off.
Clark plays Dr Eric Price, a psychologist mired in guilt after the death of his wife, and fired up to the eyeballs in laudanum to try and cope with the day to day.
When he's called on to provide an assessment of Helen Mirren's Sarah Winchester, the proprietor of the Winchester Repeating Arms company, he's lured in by the promise of clearing all his debt for an easy job.
But Winchester's elusive, claiming a curse is hitting the house she's constantly having renovated - and as Price's time in the mansion continues, he begins to suspect she's right and that he's been chosen to be brought in...
Winchester has a kernel of an idea which could have hit the spot.
A gun company's owner plagued with guilt over the deaths of those at the hands of the weaponry she peddles and makes her fortune upon.
It's a great psychological idea, one which was ripe for a "What's real, what's not" approach.
Unfortunately, The Spierig Brothers, who delivered brilliantly with Predestination, seem more determined to fill the house with cliches and jump scares, that are rote, predictable and offer nothing new.
While they make reasonable fist of some of the atmospherics and some of the location, they wrap the whole thing up in a non-scary sheen that the only frightful thing going on is the level to which Helen Mirren and Jason Clark have sunk taking part in this clunker of a wannabe haunted house flick.
Mirren plays Winchester like a medium, swathed in black mourning gear, and with frightful pauses where there need not be. She lends Winchester the requisite dignity, but the script does her no favours.
Equally, Clark does what he can with a script that requires him to react. The direction even squanders the chance to offer some doubt over what he sees once he's taken his drugs, preferring to coat the whole thing in a blaring OST that signposts every single one of the beats of what lies ahead.
Ultimately, Winchester is far from scary - and the whole thing leaves you feeling the directors have wasted their considerable talents on a story that should have dabbled in ambiguity and doubt, but instead opted for generic and rote horror cliches.