For a film that takes place in the most haunted house in North America, it carries plenty of spirits and atmospheric interest, but lacks the scares to make the film more impactful.
In Winchester, we follow Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) on his journey to the infamous Winchester house to diagnose Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), heir to the Winchester rifle company, after she claims to talk to spirits. While this ability allows spirits to exist peacefully in her home as she has her house constantly under construction to create dozens of rooms for them to rest, it also invites a vengeful spirit to plot its revenge against both Winchester and Dr. Price.
The most disappointing aspect of Winchester is that it never makes full use of the haunted house concept. This “house that spirits built” is only shown to a very small extent and viewers never feel lost or trapped in never-ending house. This idea could’ve had more of an atmospherically scary feeling that would have been complimented by the amount of cheap jump-scares that the film overuses.
The plot is relatively sound for the most part but is often broken by a major plot hole and a lack of background that can make audiences feel like they are out of the loop. Also the film’s plot twist/reveal feels like it has little meaning because it focuses on a character that we rarely see or care about. This all leads to a lot of questions that are not really answered and a story that won’t really stick with audiences after they leave the theater.
However, the characters of Sarah Winchester and Dr. Eric Price are both interesting and decently well-developed thanks to Mirren and Clarke’s performances. They both create pretty memorable characters that audiences can feel something for. Outside of Clarke and Mirren, though, there really aren’t any more compelling characters for audiences to understand or honestly even remember.
Winchester is truly a missed opportunity because of the idea of Winchester house actually being a house that viewers can get lost in is an interesting concept. It would’ve also brought more psychological fears to the film and it wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on jump scares. So while some of Winchester is without a doubt enjoyable, it just misses the mark on being a fresh entry to the horror genre.