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Winchester (PG-13)




Winchester (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

02/08/18
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Winchester (PG-13)

Sarah Winchester, heiress and majority owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, is obsessed with the angry spirits who left the world at rifle point in Winchester, a horror movie based on the theory that creaky wood is super scary.
It’s 1906 and Sarah Winchester’s (Helen Mirren) repeating rifle money really allows her to splurge on the wide-slat, richly colored wood floors during her constant renovations to her sprawling house. Workers are busy day and night building rooms that resemble, according to her, the rooms that people killed by the Winchester rifle died in. Sometimes revisiting the room lets a soul consumed by fear or anger move on. Sometimes the soul has to, like, take a time out in the room, which is then boarded shut. If the spirit does find peace and move on, Sarah has the men tear out the room and start building another room she’s seen during one of her sessions communing with the spirits.
All this renovation and the well-known reasons behind it have the men at the Winchester company  questioning Sarah’s sanity and seeking a legal reason to take control from her. They contract with Eric Price (Jason Clarke), a psychiatrist-y type, to evaluate Sarah. He’s an especially good candidate because they think his opium addiction and financial debts will make him likely to report whatever findings they pay him to report.
But when Eric shows up, the spookiness of the house starts to get to him too. Sarah’s niece Marion (Sarah Snook) and her son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey) are staying there and seem to be having some encounters with a particularly angry spirit. Eric finds himself visited by visions of his recently deceased wife, Ruby (Laura Brent).
The basic idea of Winchester — that the violence created by the Winchester rifle has become a curse on the Winchester family — is interesting. The movie gives us glimpses into how the gun figures into American history — its use during various wars of the 1800s along with its use during more individualized instances of violence. Pair that with the turn-of-the-last-century interest in spiritualists and seances and you have, you know, something, especially with a character played by Helen Mirren, an actress who can bring heft to even silly roles (see her small but delightful role in the last Fast and Furious movie). But the movie doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with these elements. A collection of jump scares (this movie feels like 70 percent of its time is setting up and executing jump scares), creepy makeup and creaky wood does not just become a horror movie. It needs some kind of glue to hold everything together, and a laudanum-addicted therapist and his grief over his dead wife is not enough to pull together Victorian spiritualism and vague commentary on gun violence.
Winchester feels like an unfinished work, like the result of someone learning the details of Sarah Winchester and her wacky house but not really knowing how to turn it into a cohesive story. C
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, drug content, some sexual material and thematic elements, according to the MPAA. Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig with a screenplay by Tom Vaughan and Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, Winchester is an hour and 39 minutes long and distributed by Lionsgate.





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