Set in 1906, the elder heiress to the Winchester fortune (whose booming success was greatly due to the creation of the Winchester repeating rifle) voluntarily lives in an ever-growing tomb – her home – which is constantly built upon around the clock by contractors, working day and night to create and change various additions to the mansion. She doesn’t leave the house and visitors are rarely ever allowed inside. Due to her abstract behavior of having seemingly nonsensical additions built onto her home (one staircase leads directly into the ceiling), the board of directors at the Winchester company have devised a plan to bribe a drug-addicted doctor to declare Sarah Winchester legally insane, thus granting them the ability to push her out of the company and take over. What they did not expect, what the doctor did not expect, was for him to realize that Sarah Winchester might not be that crazy after all, and that there just might be a reason for creating the ever-expanding home.
Loosely based on true events, ‘Winchester’ is a unique story but not one that necessarily qualifies it as a “horror” movie. There are some spooky scenes but overall this feels more like a drama, or horror drama, reminiscent to the feel of “The Awakening”. Yes, there are ghosts, but instead of creating a movie about what makes the ghosts scary, it’s about what unfinished business the ghosts have that prevent them from moving on. Initially, the movie starts out pretty good, building suspense, mystery around Sarah Winchester and her weird mansion, but soon after her secret is revealed, you wind up just feeling sorry for the spirits. I don’t want to watch a horror movie that makes me feel bad for the ghosts. I mean what is that? The film was definitely taken seriously and it’s apparent they tried to make a decent movie, but I have to judge this based on the way it was marketed, and that was as a horror movie. This was not a horror movie. Be advised, there are spoilers ahead.
One would expect a movie based on true events to be derivative – of the true events. Instead, this feels more derivative of other horror movies. More than once, the audience is led to believe there is a ghost in the wardrobe (The Conjuring), Sarah Winchester reveals the rooms that have been sealed contain malicious spirits (Thirteen Ghosts), and the twist in the end is discovering one of her butlers has been a ghost all along (The Sixth Sense). While individually each of these things could work in a horror movie, when you combine different aspects of other horror movies into one, I expect that movie to be scary, not a drama. It should be noted that none of those aspects were taken from the true story that inspired this movie, so I’m thinking the filmmaker is just a big fan of horror and wanted to find a way to work them into the story. I’m all for filmmakers pulling things from other horror movies into their own in order to make it better, but I expect the finished product to be a horror movie as well.
While I wouldn’t call this a “bad” movie necessarily, I can’t in all good judgment call this a good horror movie. I feel like giving this a positive review as a horror movie would compromise the integrity of my reviews. Therefore, I cannot recommend this movie to horror fans, or anyone looking for something scary to watch with a group of friends. This is something for a fan of drama to enjoy as a dramatic movie, or possibly a history buff who enjoys learning about unusual people in history. I am neither of these people, and I expect a horror movie to be scary. So, as a horror movie…
This movie is…
The built up suspense deflates into a dramatic sap story.
Cheers and goodnight.