“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” such a truthful phrase in this modern-day world. Well take this phrase, combine it with legendary house, and some events that occurred in the past and this mixture results in the plot of our next movie. Welcome to another Robbie’s movie review, and tonight I’ll be posting on the latest horror movie entitled Winchester. This interesting spectacle holds some wonder to it, but does it have the goods to deliver, especially with sensation Helen Mirren leading the charge? I’m here to answer that question for you, so let’s get going.
The Setting: One of the coolest things about horror movies is the potential to craft new, dark, incredible settings that bring life, or in this case death, to the screen. The movie has one of the most interesting settings I’ve seen in a while, a glamorized mansion modeled after the Winchester estate. This jigsaw puzzle like house is not the friendliest on the eyes, but it works to craft a twisted chamber that plays games on the mind. It holds great potential for a lot of scares with the uncertainty that lies around every corner and angled stair case. And once the lights go down and only the candles flicker, that is when the true craziness of the house is unleashed.
The Character Development: Scary movies are mostly about scares, and in much of the modern-day media that’s all they care about. Fortunately, Winchester goes a different route and brings focus back to the characters walking the hallowed halls. Both Mirren’s character and Jason Clarke have some decent plot arcs to tie them to the central story contained within Winchester’s elaborate walls. Their journey through their struggles has some potent emotion behind, specifically Clarke’s whose path to enlightenment takes a few dramatic twists that are impressive. I liked the personalization of the characters, even the big bad spirit, that had a little more backbone to it than simply being dead. And how all these characters mesh into this story, helps give a purpose to all the scares that are at hand.
The Twist: The story itself is not too unique, but it is stronger than most horror movies hold. While character development certainly has a hand in it, and a fairly linear story to tag on to, the movie really shines in the twist that awaits those brave viewers. The director and cinema crew were able to hide the truth quite well, using subtle camera work, dialogue, and timing to really draw your attention away. And when it finally all comes to a draw, you applaud at the integration to the plot it holds and transforms into the final act of the movie. Certainly not the creepiest of the characters, but also held some impressive makeup to help seal the deal.
Minor Scare Factor: I’ll admit, one scene got my flinching, but Winchester didn’t have the scares the initial trailer laid down for us. They rely on the same scare tactics throughout the 90-minute film, jump scares galore that rely on the sound suddenly dropping and something popping out. While diverse in the things that come out in the dark, the tactics stay pretty much the same and eventually lose the edge they wanted to keep. Even the exciting climax was nonchalant because it had crossed into the overdramatic and away from the scares. A little more creepiness, might have helped this factor out, but maybe the implied sequel will come in.
Under Utilization of Characters: The movie is primarily about Mirren and Clarke’s characters. The other characters, they unfortunately are reduced to secondary roles that are semi-significant, but still lacking that needed edge that could have helped them stand out. Henry and his mom, and John the head carpenter, they were specifically mentioned, and then…they quickly faded into the background until their hasty conclusions. Again, not the worst use of characters, but some finesse and better integration could have been the key.
The Story/Other Ghosts: I mentioned that the story was a big improvement over much of the horror movies I have seen, but I also said there was room for improvement. Winchester’s story has some depth to it, but there were some plot points that were built up and then fizzled out. Mirren’s family tragedy, the trauma young Henry and his mom truly faced, and even the ghost’s master plan all kind of dropped short of the details I had hoped to see. Had these stories been taken a little farther, not only would the story have improved, but it also would have given the story a little more edge and allowed for other ghosts to enter the mix. Speaking of ghosts, I believe the trailer promised many spirits trolling the halls and torturing our heroes. And once again this movie failed to deliver. Plenty of spirits fell victim to the Winchester rifles, but only one of them had the guts to have any bite to the story. The rest had a few jump moments, but their stories were lost to the background, contained in the books that line the wall of the main room. And those hidden in the bolted rooms, most of them didn’t even bother to make an appearance, or any meaningful one at that. No, Winchester needed to conduct a séance to recruit more spirits to its cavalcade.
Winchester wasn’t the scariest movie to haunt the theaters, but it is a better piece of storytelling than most horror movies have these days. Solid character development and a twist help bring this twisted setting to life, and provide a semi-entertaining movie to the audience. The film still needs some amplification to boost things along. Primarily in the story and integration of the characters, Winchester fails to capitalize on the ghosts of the manor to provide all those scares, and falls victim to failed scare tactics. And had they integrated and dived further in all the characters stories, perhaps this too could have soared to higher quality. Not the worst movie in the world, but this one can be saved until the Redbox picks it up.
Movie Overall: 6.0