WINCHESTER (2018) Reviews and overview

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‘Terror is building’

Winchester is a 2018 supernatural horror film directed by Michael and Peter Spierig (Jigsaw; PredestinationDaybreakers) from a screenplay co-written with Tom Vaughan (Playing House). The CBS Films production stars Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook and Angus Sampson.

Helen Mirren (Monsters UniversityThe Twilight Zone (1985), Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys, Zero Dark Thirty), Sarah Snook (Jessabelle), Angus Sampson (Insidious franchise; Mad Max: Fury Road; Darkness Falls), Laura Brent (Transylvania) and Tyler Coppin (PredestinationNightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King; Mad Max 2).


Firearm heiress Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) was convinced that she was haunted by the souls killed at the hands of the Winchester Repeating Rifle.

After the sudden deaths of her husband and child, she threw herself into overseeing the 24-hours a day, seven days a week construction of an enormous mansion designed to keep the evil spirits at bay.

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 brilliant 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…


“With some incredible source material, this film would have made an unbelievably perfect slow-burn gothic horror flick.  Instead, it settles as a jump scare fest meant to appeal to the younger crowd.  There is no sense of surprise with any of the scares in this movie as they are done in the most predictable way possible.” B4 Reviews

“Sibling directors Michael and Peter Spierig establish the requisite creepy atmosphere with creaky doors, flickering lights, and a barrage of bizarre sounds and visions, almost always accompanied by shrieking music cues. Despite some scattered frights, the film relies mostly on technical gimmicks and jump scares rather than building genuine suspense.” Cinemalogue

“Anybody who has seen just one eerie old mansion movie will experience dizzying déjà vu during drawn out sequences of tiptoeing down lantern-lit hallways or other scenes of commonplace creeps. But Winchester makes treading trodden trails worth the trip by entertainingly exploiting its true events connection, sumptuous production design, and mesmeric leading lady to moodily maximum effect.” Culture Crypt

“It’s a treat to see Mirren go all-out in the horror genre, and she battles the creaky script with an always- watchable performance. Clarke is game too, injecting life into a potentially dull audience surrogate despite a distractingly inconsistent accent. His unreliability is signalled early on — is he really seeing spirits or just tripping off the laudanum?” Empire

“A staggeringly pointless supernatural non-chiller featuring some very tiresome jump scares. People with latex skin conditions and demon-eyes are always JUMPING! out at you out of nowhere and then disappearing, leaving behind the same atmosphere of listless boredom.” The Guardian

“Aside from three days of shooting at the real Mystery House, the Spierigs filmed everything in their native Australia, conjuring up the house’s mind-warping MC Escher interiors using soundstages and visual effects. Mirren always brings a touch of class, of course, even to deluxe schlock like this. But Clarke is something of a blank leading man, while the secondary characters are mostly pale phantoms sleepwalking through a thinly drawn plot.” The Hollywood Reporter

“When the pasty, sub J-horror ghouls aren’t jumping out of nooks and crannies like the underpaid employees of a Halloween attraction, we’re forced to endure snooze-inducing scenes in which Mirren makes up the plot as she goes along over cups of tea with Clarke, who looks like he’s struggling to stay awake. I know how he feels, and so will you if you if you take a dose of this cinematic Xanax.” The Movie Waffler

“The talented actors get lost in the hardwood maze of the set. Mirren — who has played her share of historical personages in gloomy rooms — at least manages to look appropriately wide-eyed and concerned. But the brawny Clarke looks as though he’s been forced to wear someone else’s burlap underwear. And, despite volleys of abrupt noises, tolling bells and scabby faces appearing in mirrors, suspense is undetectable.” Original Cin

“Most of the film is genuinely atmospheric, thanks especially to the omnipresent construction noises that surround the house, like hammers on chisels, or saws into wood planks. And several set pieces are also fairly well-choreographed, particularly the one where a rifle slowly but surely fires right next to Mirren’s head.”

“When it comes to the jump scares, Winchester is mostly competent if unremarkable in the way that its constructs these creepy sequences. Unfortunately, what suspense the film manages to generate over the course of its first two acts dissipates in the final third, once Winchester goes from being quietly atmospheric to loud and over the top.” Screen Rant

“Mirren does all she can to look like she’s having fun, but Winchester isn’t a movie about acting. It’s a grab bag of a spook show in which the Spierig brothers never do figure out a way to turn the Winchester Mystery House into an exhilarating movie set. It’s more like a hardwood maze that traps us.” Variety

“You’ve seen all the tropes – little kid jolted awake by noise while mom sleeps soundly, peeping character gets scared, emotional weight becomes savior’s tool – and they’ve been equally executed. I do think less involved horror audiences may appreciate this terrifying trip to California considerably more, yet for 100-horror-flick-a-year psychos like myself, predictability is an ugly finish on these walls.” We Got This Covered

Main cast and characters:

Helen Mirren … Sarah Winchester
Sarah Snook … Marion Marriott
Finn Scicluna-O’Prey … Henry Marriott
Jason Clarke … Doctor Eric Price
Emm Wiseman … Nancy
Alana Fagan … Partially Dressed Lady #1
Rebecca Makar … Partially Dressed Lady #2
Tyler Coppin … Arthur Gates
Michael Carman … Frank
Angus Sampson … John Hansen
Alice Chaston … Clara
Eamon Farren … Ben Block
Laura Brent … Ruby Price
Adam Bowes … Farmer Amputee
Bruce Spence … Augustine

Filming locations:

San Jose and San Francisco, California
Docklands Studios, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Film Facts:

The film was initially known as The 13th Hour and then Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built


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