'Winchester' a well-crafted ghost story built on atmosphere
Many films release, calling themselves "based on/inspired by actual events." With most, you need to take it with a grain of salt, as many artistic liberties are taken to change just enough of the source material to make it its own little story. The case is especially noted in ghost movies. That said, I am a sucker for a good ghost movie, so when Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built trailers started appearing, I knew I had to see it.
Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built is about Sarah Winchester (the amazing Helen Mirren), heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms factory — the company that makes the well-known rifles. Sarah has had tragedy strike her recently, losing both her husband and son. The toll of such a loss would affect anyone, and in Sarah's case, perhaps more than usual. The family home started as a simple farm house, but through the strange requests of Mrs. Winchester, builders are constantly there, adding new wings and rooms at a moment's notice. The house has turned into quite the labyrinth and the stock holders for the Winchester company begin questioning the sanity of Sarah Winchester. They hire reluctant psychiatrist Eric Price (Jason Clarke) to assess Sarah in her own home and ensure she is fit to still be in charge of a company as big as Winchester. After Eric comes to stay with her, he finds that Sarah may not be coming up from these designs on her own, as she claims it is the ghosts of the house that guide her ideas. Now Eric must decide on the declining mental state of Sarah or if there are really others occupying this house, making it truly, the house that ghosts built.
It's safe to assume the things you witness in this movie are over-exaggerated Hollywood special effects, and that the house can't really be that bad. Maybe. I personally am willing to believe in things not so easy to believe. When I go to a flick like this, I walk away with a "what if" feeling in my gut. And I love it.
The scary parts did rely heavily on jump scares, which is one of the lazier troupes Hollywood uses to frighten people, but I feel most were done effectively. If you are willing to let your mind open up, this movie is genuinely spooky. The story that Mart tells is one that sends shivers. Its atmosphere is chilling and unsettling at times. The 1906 atmosphere is done well, as both environment and costume were on par. And, most importantly, Mirren and Clarke deliver their performances well. A great comparison I could give this movie is William Castle's original 13 Ghosts and Nicole Kidman's The Others.
While skeptics and those looking for the cheap thrills Hollywood delivers on a regular basis may be bored and/or disappointed, those who appreciate a good ghost story and love a spooky atmosphere will very much love this film. I only wish that more movies like this can come out more often over what we seem to get lately. Check out Duggan Cinemas tonight and let me know your thoughts.