What the hell happened to The Spierig Brothers?! Winchester – movie review

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Michael and Peter Spierig, they’re two Aussie twins who wrote and directed some great horror flicks… and Jigsaw (2017).

Their filmography includes Undead (2003), a fantastic horror comedy where zombies must defend the earth from evil aliens, Daybreakers (2010), which is among my favourite vampire movies ever, and Predestination (2014), again one of my favourite sci-fi films ever!

Winchester 1.jpgThus, I was naturally excited about Winchester ever since I heard about it: written and directed by The Spierig Brothers, this big-budget Blumhouse horror film revolves around Dr Eric Price (Jason Clarks), an opium-addicted psychiatrist who gets hired to solve the mystery about the Winchester mansion. Over there, Sarah Winchester (Academy Award winner Helen Mirren) heiress to the Winchester fortune, incessantly is building the house twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week, backed up by her niece, Sarah Snook. She is claiming, though, that what she’s working on is in fact a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters.

Will that be the delusion of an old mind or, perhaps, Dr Price will find out a much scarier truth?

The set-up is interesting, albeit not very original, the filmmakers are talented and the cast is great, apart from Jason Clarks (more on that later). However, Winchester turns out to be a humongous disappointment, a thirteen in a dozen horror flick that relies on every single horror cliché you can think of (besides animals sensing things… hurray!).

For example, Winchester features an unbelievably high number of jump-scares: that wouldn’t even bother me if they were well-timed and real, instead the scares here are all false and created through sudden, loud noises. I’m not even kidding, there’s one point in the movie where the score bursts out loud, with the typical stock-sound, when the phone rings: are you shitting me? That would be acceptable in a 90s TV horror movie, nowadays people are damn fed up with these cheap tricks.

Seriously, I haven’t seen as many fake jump-scares in a horror movie in a very long time. This constant presence of them made Winchester extremely repetitive and, therefore, boring because it kept going on and on in the same way. This is a 90-something-minute-long flick (even the runtime is clichéd here…) which feels way longer because it’s so tedious.

Yet, the characters are your typical, formulaic one-dimensional people, thus they’re uninteresting and the viewer can’t relate to them. Clarks’ character is addicted to opium (that’s it); Mirren’s character is an old lady with a dark secret to hide (that’s it); Snook’s character is a weak, annoying woman who does nothing other than spelling out things for the audience (that’s it). You got it by now.

Winchester 2What really upsets me about Winchester, though, is that because of the lazy writing and paper-thin characters, even the actors cannot give convincing performance whatsoever. Helen Mirren is usually a fantastic actress and here might just as well be replaced by a random old lady! Sarah Snook was fantastic in Predestination, awesome in These Final Hours (2015), but here she’s just annoying to the point I wanted her to just die… if only characters could die, though.

In fact, Winchester is a PG-13 formulaic horror flick in which (MINI SPOILER) it seems that characters can’t die! Everything is extremely lame and tame in this flick, which truly shocked me, considering that Michael and Peter Spierig are everything but sell-outs!

Can we just talk one second about Jason Clarks? I mean, I’ve got nothing personal against him, he seems like a fine person in interviews and stuff. However, it makes no sense to me how he keeps getting lead roles in movies: he’s got one facial expression throughout the whole films he stars in, including Winchester.

Winchester 3There are a few redeeming qualities in the movie. To begin with, since Blumhouse stepped up their game after Paranormal Activity (2007), the production values are great (how could they not be though with such a big budget?) and the movie looks great. The maze-looking mansion is, indeed, well crafted and seems the perfect setting for a haunted house film. The camera-work is competent and the editing spotless.

Unfortunately, that’s all. Honestly, Winchester is as much a disappointment for me as Alien: Covenant last year: I thought this would have been a fabulous horror film but it ended up being a subpar cookie-cutter flick with not much effort put in.

I hope The Spierig Brothers will come back to the right path and re-start making awesome, unconventional cinema… as for now, they lost my attention as filmmakers.

Winchester                4.5/10

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imdb My review is also available on IMDb – Winchester