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A two-fer! Helen Mirren stars as Sarah Winchester, daughter of the famous rifle company founder and builder of the “house that spirits built” tourist attraction in San Jose, CA. (Built to appease/trap spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle, she started construction in 1883 and continued, supposedly day and night, until her passing in 1922.) A strung-out shrink (Jason “DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES” Clarke) is hired by the company’s lawyers to determine if the ol’ gal is off her rocker. But his past haunts him as much as ghosts haunt her (and the house), and a connection puts them all in danger as Winchester’s niece (Sarah Snook) and grand-nephew deal some of the spooks. “Inspired” by true events, this is mostly fiction. (Interesting info on the real place and history is here.)
Written by Michael and Peter Spierig and Tom Vaughn. Directed by the Spierig brothers.
- Good casting and performances. Mirren is of course always good. She plays the role with believability and sincerity, so she doesn’t come off as a loon. Clarke is always good as a tortured, serious soul. The niece is nice and plays a scared/concerned Mom well and Winchester’s security chief/construction foreman dude (Angus Sampson) is very good.
- Though the outsides/overheads were mostly the real place, the interiors were sets and well-done. I’ve not been there yet (and neither has that idiot Pascale) but from the photos I’ve seen, they did a good job of replicating how it looks. The stairways that lead nowhere, the doors bolted with 13 nails, the multiple turrets and rooms that make no sense are all there.
- Tons of “Whoas” and “What-was-thats” to make you twitch, jump, yell or giggle, depending on how you take your scares. No gore (or sex) but plenty of quick, fun frights.
- Nice makeup on the spirits and good special effects when the ghosting goes intense.
- Real nice plot tie-in character histories as they’re revealed. Easy-to-follow, self-contained story. Once the doc gets to the house, 99.9 percent of the action takes place in our around the house, mostly indoors. I love that kind of clautrophobic stuff.
- Good suspense and thrills, plus a logical tie-in to historical events. Nice setup and believable premise with Winchester history.
- No ground-breaking, never-saw-that-before genre innovations if that’s what you’re hoping/looking for. This is a pretty standard ghost/possession flick.
- It’s PG-13 due to “intense scenes,” which means no nudity or gore (not even an undressing undies scene!), which some expect from horror films these days.
- Some of the plot is predictable for those who think about that kind of thing. (Thankfully, yer pal Bru doesn’t bother with brain stuff during movies. Or TV. Or sports. Or beer-drinking…)
- No nods to or cameos by the Winchester Brothers from the superior SUPERNATURAL show (hey, a fan can hope).
- Kind of cliché end scene which you’re probably waiting for.
It’s a decent medium-coaster ride for ghost-flick lovers mostly. It won’t give you or your date nightmares but it will make them hold you tighter at times and is a fun time. The history and design of the real house alone is fascinating, and there’s enough suspense to keep you interested throughout. (Though a true documentary on the real place would probably be more fascinating.) Definitely more absorbing/fun on the large screen, but at what movies cost these days, it’s worth waiting for cable or streaming.
P.S.: Pascale does some scary sketching too! Get a good ghost, Ghost, Spectre, Mephisto, demon, angel or other paranormal pencil piece or inked incarnation for a non-frightening price. Just ask Craig here!
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here are not those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, The Winchester Repeating Arms Company, the Sanford Arms, the Winchester Brothers, The Rifleman, Ghostbusters, or any spirits, spooks, poltergeists or phantoms, real or imagined. Bru hopes one day to construct The Bru-Hed Beer House, where every room has a fridge-full of Bud and beer is added every day!