So the Speirig brothers, not long after releasing Jigsaw, take a go at writing and directing a paranormal, conventional ghost story that’s actually based on true people and most importantly “The Most Haunted House in America” which still exists today in San Jose, California, open as a tourist attraction.
The story pays a visit to heiress Sarah Winchester (Mirren), the Widow of renowned rifle manufacturer, William Winchester, who owned the famed Winchester Repeating Arms Company, to which almost 50% of, went to Sarah after his sudden death, leaving her in control of the company and making her one of the richest women in the world, amassing a fortune equivalent to over $500millions in today’s money.
Having already lost a baby daughter, and now her husband, she reportedly became a grieving recluse and was seldom seen outside the mansion, which she continuously made alterations and extensions to the house that was beyond any architectural reasoning. And according to legend, her designs were influences directly by residing spirits that had been killed by the Winchester rifles.
The rest of the board plot to seize power of the company and send Dr. Eric Price (Clarke) to assess Mrs. Winchester’s sanity in the hope of having her deemed unfit to control the corporation. However, Dr. Price seems to be harbouring his own demons and secrets which comes to light when he reaches the mansion and starts his investigation, discovering things he probably would rather leave behind nailed doors.
The house is as much as a character than anyone else in the film with the production team having gone to great lengths to make a believable, unbelievable setting with winding walk ways, misplaced windows and stair cases leading directly into ceilings. Not quite M.C. Escher but close enough to evoke perplexed wonder.
Both Mirren and Clarke offer up convincing and acceptable performances but nothing outstanding and is far from being either of their finest roles. Snook in support as Winchester’s Niece is equally good, myself being a fan of hers since her previous collaboration with the Spierigs on Predestination.
There’s clearly a lot of work gone into the production of this film, besides the house itself, the wardrobe department and prop design fit perfectly. Impressively, Peter Spierig also composes the fitting score, which is quite haunting to listen to in isolation from the film, creating the right tension and suspense. Though, there’s nothing really memorable apart from it sounding suitable for the film.
There’s a few jump scares, and it had me guessing towards the end, expecting something similar to where other movies have gone before. But with all its great qualities, it doesn’t quite hit it’s target and possible suffers the same fate of many weaker horror films and knowing how to end of their story.
Instead of everything falling into perfect place, it sadly resembles much of how the mansion appears; disjointed, pointless and unfinished. It’s not the worse horror film to come out in recent years, but it certainly isn’t one of the best either making this an average horror that’s mildly entertaining.
Running Time: 6
The Cast: 6
Job Description: 5
The Extra Bonus Point: 0