Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Movie Review - Winchester


by Beth

The Winchester House is listed as one of the most haunted places in America. I've read that actually visiting it is kind of a let down, but I'd still go. It's the least disturbing of spooky destinations that Mr. Tibbs has ever suggested going to since no one actually died in the house itself. I'm more inclined to do something like that than the Cecil Hotel where women kept dying, and 2 serial killers were in residence. I'd watch a movie about a place like that, but I wouldn't go there. Unfortunately, it would probably be just as bad as a movie about the Winchester House turned out to be.


The story of the Winchester Mystery House is creepy and cool. When the founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company died his widow took all her newfound wealth, and moved to California to begin work on the weirdest house ever. Sarah Winchester designed the house to confuse and contain the ghosts of everyone who was killed by her husband's guns. Or the old bitch was crazy. After her infant daughter died of some kind of old timey disease that I've never heard of (marasmus, what the fuck is that?), and her husband died of tuberculous she contacted a “spiritualist” who told her that she was cursed. She took the huge fortune she'd inherited and started working on a house where construction went on 24/7 up until the day she died. There are staircases that lead nowhere, windows set all over interior rooms, and doors that open to either dead ends or a long fall to the ground outside. The fact that she had no clue about design or architecture goes a long way to explain why the house is so bizarre. I'm giving you all of this background so that you'll know why the idea of this movie was so much better than the actual product. And also because the movie doesn't do a great job of showing Sarah Winchester's motivations or why the house was built the way it was. Kind of a big thing to let slide in a movie about a haunted house, but definitely explains why it wasn't a very good movie. 

We had wanted to see this in the theater, but somehow never got around to it. Then I saw that it had a 14% critic, and 37% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Now we don't always agree with other people, but that's a pretty strong mark against it. So when I saw it at Redbox I figured that it would at least be worth $1.75 for the night. It wasn't. The basis in reality is very loose, and there's much more talking about nothing than there are actual ghosts. Or tension. Or even something that makes sense. If you know the story behind the Dibbuk Box, and saw The Possession you'll know exactly how a creepy story can become unwatchable garbage for the big screen.

The premise of the movie is that the board of the Winchester Company thinks Sarah Winchester is crazy, and wants her out. Even though in reality she only owned 49% of the stock, and so wouldn't have had controlling interest. In the movie she seems to give zero fucks about the company anyway so I don't know why the board cares that she's spending her own money on being nuts. Other than trying to expand the company into new inventions like roller skates (which Mr. Tibbs and I dubbed “Winchester Repeating Roller Skates”) she doesn't really seem to be bothering the board of directors. So for whatever reason they go get a shrink with a laudnum habit to visit her in the house, and offer him a large sum of money to find her mentally unfit to run the company. The doctor's drug habit stems from the death of his wife who was also crazy, and shot herself after shooting him. It seems that Mrs. Winchester knew all this, and personally chose the unhinged doctor as he was also a victim of one of her husband's guns. She takes away his drugs (which is a dick move if you ask me), and he starts seeing things that he initially assumes are side effects of withdrawal. The first half of the movie is talking, more talking, and then a jump scare followed by more talking. The reason I've got so many pictures of people talking in this review? That's almost all I could find because that's pretty much all that happens. Compelling stuff.

Later the son of Mrs. Winchester's niece is possessed by a ghost and after failing to die from falling out a random door to the outside he tries to kill his great aunt with one of her guns. Why does a woman who thinks she's haunted by victims of gun violence have a room full of guns? There was some crappy reason given, but it didn't make any sense so I completely forgot it. Some shit about recreating a room where someone died. I don't know, and to be honest I really don't care. Then the doctor meets up with a butler who turns out to be the ghost of a man who lost both of his brothers to bullets from Winchester guns. The ghost goes after Mrs. Winchester while the doctor meets up with his dead wife. Then there's a lot more talking, and an earthquake, and a rushed unsatisfying ending. The movie even ends with an opening for a sequel, but not to worry – it will never happen.

As you would expect Helen Mirren is the best part of this movie. She is utterly and completely wasted by bad writing, but other than her inconsistent American accent gives a better performance than this movie deserves. The usually forgettable Jason Clarke is (surprise!) entirely forgettable as the junkie doctor. There are other people in this movie as well, but none of them matter or contribute anything in any way.

So if you like movies that suck two hours from your life, and give you nothing in return you might like Winchester. If you thought the real life story of a bat-shit crazy woman building a kooky house for ghosts would make a good movie you'd be wrong. Don't waste your money or your two hours. I'm turning 44 the day this post goes up, and time is becoming too valuable to waste on shitty movies. Well I guess that's not entirely true, but if I'm going to watch a shitty movie I at least want to be entertained.



Beth got her start writing for a site called Movie Criticism for the Retarded (which has been reborn as dorkdroppings.com. Check it out sometime), but was pulled out of an early retirement to write for Needless Things. When she isn't writing she plays video games and watches bad horror movies while eagerly awaiting the zombie apocalypse. She may try to save her husband and/or their cats, but luckily hasn't had to make those tough decisions yet. Follow beth0rama on Instagram or on Twitter @NeedlessBeth where she doesn't post often enough to be annoying, but updates way more than Google+

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