By: Alex Phuong (Three Beers) –
The Winchester mansion is arguably the most haunted house in the world. It has fascinated tourists because of the controversy that surrounds it, and Sarah Winchester remains a major figure in terms of the haunted history of America. It is no surprise, then, that the Spierig brothers would team up to bring Sarah Winchester’s story to the silver screen. The final result is a very interesting film that combines biography with fantasy while also adding elements of horror and the supernatural.
Since this film is about an elegant house, the production design is absolutely spectacular. The reconstructions of the Winchester estate are beautifully realized, and it makes audiences feel as if they are actually inside the house as the horrific story unfolds. The film also features the beauty of California in the early Twentieth Century since the film partially takes place in San Francisco and San Jose around the early 1900s. This film is very stunning in terms of its overall look.
This film might be called Winchester, but Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Sarah Winchester could have been better because she actually does not do that much in this film. It seems weird that Helen Mirren would receive recognition for films like The Queen (2006) and The Last Station (2009), but does not honor the historical legacy of Sarah Winchester here. In fact, Jason Clarke’s character, Dr. Eric Price, appears to be the real star just because he does more than what Mirren does. It is a bit of a shame that Helen Mirren could not add vivacity nor emotional drama to the frightfully bizarre story of the legendary Sarah Winchester.
This film is definitely frightening (just because it is partially a horror flick), but only to a limited extent. A better term to describe the scary moments in this film is “startling” because the horrific elements are much tamer compared to films like The Exorcist (1973) and the Japanese films Ringu (1998) and Ju-On: The Grudge (2002). Maybe that is why this film was able to get away with a PG-13 rating- just because it is not that scary. That could be both good and bad depending on whether or not viewers enjoy being scared while watching a horror film.
Sarah Winchester is a very iconic figure in American history. Many people flock to the Winchester estate to see if they can spot paranormal activity. This film might not be as scary as Paranormal Activity (2009), but it still provides a nice history lesson behind one of the most (supposedly) haunted places on Earth. This film is actually great for people who do not want to scream while watching a scary film just because it is not that scary. The legendary Sarah Winchester definitely lives on in this film (but it would have been better if Helen Mirren just did more with her character).
Winchester (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time there is a discussion about Sarah Winchester’s psychological state of mind and/or erratic behavior
Take a Drink: during every startling moment
Take a Drink: every time construction noise is heard
Take a Drink: every time rifles are shot
Drink a Shot: whenever the name “Winchester” is spoken
And Make Sure You are Not Sober: during the film’s climax