I fancy myself an armchair movie critic, so I will be reviewing films of all shapes, sizes, and genres with my sui generis perspective.
I saw Winchester last Monday after work, so I’ve had a few days to nosh on it. I had been keeping up on the press for it since it was announced. I almost went so far as to watch the premiere at the actual Winchester Mystery House. That meant touring the mansion, enjoying a reception, and then walking across the street to CineArts on Santana Row to watch it, but it’s still getting caught up in the reality of it. I’m a huge fan of Mrs. Winchester. I’ve owned annual passes to the House over the years. It’s one of the best examples of Queen Anne architecture that survives to this day.
I really enjoyed it. It took generous liberties with Mrs. Winchester’s story, but who’s to say this stuff couldn’t have happened? Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but I do think she had a connection to the ghosts. I mean, wouldn’t you feel that guilt eventually too?
For those who don’t know her story, Mrs. Sarah Winchester married into the Winchester Repeating Arms Company family. Her husband and daughter died, and she inherited her wealth upon his death. Her doctor recommended that she move from the East Coast to the West Coast. She settled on San Jose, California for its Mediterranean weather, which helped her persistent health issues.
She felt possessed by ghosts and spirits who were killed by the Winchester, and thus became the start of her exceptional story. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, save for holidays, Mrs. Winchester had workmen building and then breaking down what they built, based on her seances with ghosts. It wasn’t all that bad. Most of them lived onsite, brought their families. It was good work for 19th century going into 20th century America. The house itself is a technological marvel of the time. She used the latest tech, stuff we take for granted today. I can’t even list them all here!
The film itself had the appropriate amount of horror and thriller, without being too corny or too over the top. I’m not one for out and out gorefests in my horror flicks, and Winchester filled that need. Horror’s not supposed to be just slapstick jump scares for horror’s sake, it’s supposed to reflect the darkness of human nature, make us uncomfortable, make us question reality.
The plot itself took the standard approach of bringing an outsider into an established universe, which is what Jason Clarke’s Dr. Eric Price does. The Winchester Repeating Arms Company engages his services to address the mental stability of Mrs. Winchester. Price had an interesting backstory, and it played out wonderfully on screen.
I loved Helen Mirren as Mrs. Winchester. The real Mrs. Winchester is actually much shorter than Helen; she barely cleared 4 feet, if memory serves me correctly. That’s why there’s a staircase in the house with impossibly small steps. I had hoped they would address that, but again, artistic license. I’m cool with that.
I already knew the villain was a villain because of the way he was lit in one scene. I won’t say anything else, but look out for that.
I loved how they incorporated actual bits of the house, such as the Tiffany windows, the Shakespeare windows in the ballroom, the rooftop, the kitchen, the Door to Nowhere, the beautiful entryway, the spiderwebs. There’s so much more they missed. So honestly, if your interest was piqued by the movie, take a trip to see the actual house. You won’t be disappointed.
All in all, if you’re looking to have a fun night out, give Winchester a shot. It’s not a perfect movie, but it was an enjoyable way to give you a glimpse into the source material.
Bonus: my favorite pics of the Winchester I’ve taken over the years. Enjoy!