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Winchester - Blu-rayReview

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Winchester - Blu-rayReview

2 stars

The only thing more confusing and carelessly constructed than the Winchester mansion itself, is the story that tries to explain why the house was built in such a haphazard manner in the first place.

Construction began on the real-life Winchester House in 1886 and was never completed until its owner, Sarah Winchester, died in 1922. That’s nearly 40 years of tacking on quirky rooms, hidden hallways, doors that open to nowhere, and staircases that lead to dead ends.

Legend has it that the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune purposefully built the house in such a confusing manner so as to disorient the restless souls of those killed by her late husband’s rifles. While that claim makes for a great tourist attraction, and an even better premise for a horror movie, the truth is probably not as exciting. Perhaps she fancied herself quite the designer and architect, yet with no formal training in either discipline (as well as a $20 million inheritance to spend), simply incorporated the building’s quirks and intricacies inadvertently. Or, since she did not have much of the damage to the house repaired following the 1906 Earthquake, perhaps many of the flaws are simply best efforts to shore up the damage and call it a day.

I know. I know. That scenario isn’t nearly as much fun. But neither is the slapdash film called Winchester, written and directed by Australian brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, which is built around the concession that the wealthy widow was losing her mind and believed she was living in a haunted house.

In the film, the board of directors of The Winchester Repeating Arms Company hires Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke), a damaged widower with substance abuse problems, to visit the Winchester house on behalf of the company, and assess the mental stability of Mrs. Winchester (Helen Mirren). Seems shareholders have become as restless as the spirits strolling the house’s hallways with the reality that 51% of their company is held by a looney who has become obsessed with the constant 24-hour construction being done on her home.

Soon after arriving at the house and meeting Sarah Winchester’s niece Marion (Sarah Snook) and her young son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey), Dr. Price begins experiencing strange occurrences that are caused either by his laudanum withdrawals or by the house itself. There’s no question that the old lady is a bit off her rocker though, as her candle-lit visage is seen slinking about the premises by night, shrouded in black. Though they never feel totally at ease with what they are asked to do, Clarke, Mirren, and Snook do their best with shallow characters that don’t seem real and are never given the opportunity to flourish.

What follows is 90 minutes of loud noises, fast cuts, loose logic, and hand-on-the-shoulder jump scares (I counted no fewer than four of them) as the house erupts into a chaotic fuss while attempting to purge itself of the wayward souls locked within its walls. None of it is particularly scary and it certainly isn’t very interesting with a mind-numbingly slow pace throughout much of its middle section meant as character exposition but that feels like padding.

Though the film has its moments with a fascinatingly spooky real-life setting and a couple of scenes that work well enough despite the film’s anemic PG-13 rating, not enough is made of the house’s bewildering layout. Its most interesting aspect is never adequately explored nor is it used to great effect. This is a ghost story about a house purposefully designed to fool, trick, and piss off ghosts. Yet, how does that work? It is never really explained. Aren’t ghosts ghosts because they can walk through walls, floors, windows, and doors? Then how is it that they can be locked inside rooms and killed with bullets? Sure, these are stupid questions to ask of a brainless horror film, but if you load your gun with a one-trick premise, you’d better make sure the bullets are real. Winchester fires blanks.

Winchester - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, drug content, some sexual material and thematic elements.
99 mins
: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Jason Clarke
: Horror
Terror is building.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I feel their presence... in the air... in the walls. It has found us."
Theatrical Distributor:
CBS Films
Official Site: www.winchestermovie.com/
Release Date:
February 2, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 1, 2018.
Synopsis: Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, (Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren) heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman's madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook) or for the troubled Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters...

Winchester Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Lionsgate Films
Available on Blu-ray - May 1, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; Digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

The Spierig brothers have a long and steeped career in the macabre, so visually their films tend to skew toward the dark and inky—the most unforgiving of palettes when it comes to HD fair. If the transfer isn’t done well, or the choice of film or digital used in the filming isn’t top notch it can stick out like dog’s balls.

Fortunately Winchester’s 1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer is as close to flawless as it comes. The heavy blues remain consistent throughout; there are fine details in the inky blacks; skin tones are suitably pallid.

The DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix is equally impressive. A very busy surround experience awaits for this rather pedestrian jump scare filled story. Nevertheless those jumps are rendered perfectly, with directionality and clarity selling every moment. Centre channel and dialogue was clean and crisp. Rears give good consistent atmosphere.



While highly recommended, it is sad that there are no commentaries for the film.

Special Features:

There’s one! An admittedly detailed but bog standard publicity featurette (EPK). No trailer, no commentary. Pretty shoddy.

Winchester - Movie Review


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