First Hit: This film needed to be taken out back and shot with a Winchester rifle.
I’ve been to the Winchester mansion in San Jose. It is a very interesting structure and although currently it is large, 4 stories in some sections, it was once much larger at seven stories high in places. But after the 1906 earthquake, also a plot device in the film, it got reduced in size.
The basic story about the house is that Sarah built this house to capture and confuse the ghosts resulting from people who died by her husband’s rifles. She was told by a medium, that she needed to amend for her husbands invention of the repeating rifle. This film takes the bent that because she owned a huge portion of her deceased husband's company, Winchester Repeating Arms Company, the board of directors thought she was crazy to be building this house, and wanted a negative evaluation of Sarah Winchester’s (Helen Mirren) mental capabilities to take back control of the company.
The directors hire Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) who’s imbibing Laudanum to ease the pain of losing his wife who killed herself with a Winchester Rifle after wounding him with the same rifle, to analyze Sarah and report back to the board.
They pressure him to determine that Sarah is crazy. He arrives at Winchester’s house and has dealings with staff, niece Marion Marriot (Sarah Snook), her son, and ghosts. Because Sarah is driven to house and appease all the ghosts, building rooms onto the house goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. People are always working on the house.
The film tries to make a compelling ghost and horror story about Sarah, Marion’s son, and Eric and how, together, they fight to kill one rambunctious ghost, Ben Block (Eamon Farren).
I cannot tell you anything I liked about this film. It was shot way to darkly (in color) and they showed very little of the peculiarities of the house itself. Winchester House is interesting and fascinating and this film does nothing with this, they just made a poorly constructed and contrived ghost story.
Mirren was OK in a role and script that didn’t become her abilities. Clarke was poor. His choices, as directed in the film’s script, were poorly done and not well thought out. The story of his demise felt contrived. Snook tired to be sincere but it was the role and script that failed her. Peter and Michael Spierig wrote and directed this mess. I’m not sure how they got funding for this, and my guess is that they will be hard pressed to get funding for a future project.
Overall: This film is a waste of any money used to go see it, let alone make it.