Winchester (2018) – Movie Review

The history of the Winchester mansion is such an interesting story. This twisted, surreal house was built in San Jose, California, beginning in 1884, a project that continued 24 hours a day until the mansion’s owner, Sarah Winchester, passed away in 1922. As soon as she passed, the place became a tourist attraction. Before she died, she had believed the house to be haunted by the victims who were killed by the Winchester rifle. The Spierig Brothers’ Winchester tells Sarah Winchester’s tale and the story of the infamous Winchester Mystery House. Was this movie an accurate telling of the Mystery House’s history, or was it just another bland ghost story? 

(Synopsis provided by IMDb.com):

Ensconced in her sprawling California mansion, eccentric firearm heiress Sarah Winchester believes she is haunted by the souls of people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle.

I’m going to be completely honest. I had no interest in seeing Winchester. It seemed like just another ghost story, and I was getting pretty tired of them. I ended up viewing the film on a last minute decision. I have to say that I’m glad that I gave it a chance, because I genuinely enjoyed this film!

What worked for Winchester:

To start off, I really love the concept of the film. It was believed that the Winchester mansion was, in fact, haunted by those who were murdered by the Winchester rifle. In that aspect, Winchester tells it accurately. However, the other side of the story was fabricated for the sake of the film, and was still enjoyable. This might be a terrible thing to add, but considering the subject matter and this society’s current events, this film couldn’t have been released at a more perfect time. I won’t go into too much detail, but this film touches on the subject of guns without being on either side of the political debate.

Winchester brought together many likable characters that had fantastic chemistry. Though I can’t compare Helen Mirren to the real Sarah Winchester, I can still commemorate her on her brilliant performance in this film. She beautifully portrayed a haunted soul – not only haunted by the spirits, but haunted by her guilt and her past. Jason Clarke portrayed another troubled soul who tried to drink away his past. He was very sympathetic and had such a heartbreaking story.

What didn’t work for Winchester:

Besides the usual jump scares, the film just wasn’t scary. When a film’s goal is to scare its audience, it’s not just about scaring them in the theater. That fear needs to follow them home long after the movie is over. That’s where Winchester fails. Though it’s a deal breaker for most of today’s horror fans, it’s not a deal breaker for me. A horror film doesn’t need to rely on scares to still be considered good in my book. The end of the film was honestly a little over the top. That seems to be the major trope with haunted house final acts.

Final thoughts on Winchester:

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I absolutely loved the story and the history of the house intrigued me. Have you seen Winchester yet? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments!

About Karli Lawson

I basically grew up watching horror films and spooky things. I watched my first horror film when I was 4 years old. I've wanted to be a writer ever since I've read Stephen King books in middle school. I love writing and talking about my favorite genre. I hope to one day be successful in screenwriting and filmmaking. Everything horror, of course!

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