Winchester

A ghost story more known for its bad reviews than for the movie itself. It isn’t as bad as it was purported to be, but it’s not a movie either.

The Winchester mansion is fascinating. It is a real mansion built by Sarah Winchester over the course of almost 40 years. It encompasses 24,000 square feet without a single blueprint. She bought a small house and began adding onto it. It grew and grew and grew. There are doors that open onto solid walls. There are stairs the lead nowhere. There are hallways that wind around and lead nowhere. It is also completely unexplained. No one knows why Sarah built this house or refused to stop building the house. Building literally never stopped 24 hours a day seven days a week for 28 years. Some people think that she built the house to attract spirits to keep evil spirits at bay. It is the perfect setting for a horror movie.

The movie based on this house is disappointing. It follows a psychologist who is hired by the Winchester Rifle company to assess Sarah Winchester’s mental state to see if she’s crazy for building this massive house. It’s a pretty classic setup. The skeptic goes to the haunted place to prove it’s all nonsense, but ends up believing. This setup has led to some great movies, but here it just kind of follows the routine. It goes through the motions a little bit.

There are some truly chilling moments. The opening sequence is great. There are some nice setup and payoff moments with a mirror and with a boy being possessed who attempts to murder someone, but the movie relies too heavily on jump scares.

Jump scares are often misunderstood or incorrectly labeled. A jump scare is when the movie gets quiet and a character is looking or waiting for something, then something jumps out accompanied by a loud musical cue or sound effect. The thing that makes the jump scare bad is that the thing that jumps out is usually innocuous. A cat jumping out of a closet is a famous example. It is used so often that there are multiple it was just a cat compilations on youtube. The problem with the cat jumping out or any innocuous element causing the jump scare is that it breaks the tension of the scene and makes the audience temporarily afraid of something that serves no purpose and will never come back. The audience shouldn’t be afraid of cats. They should be afraid of the ghost or the demon or the slasher antagonist of the story.

This movie doesn’t have a cat, but it does have a lot of jumps and scares and startling moments that feel cheap and unearned. The movie also feels a little tiring, knowing that at any moment something else is going to inevitably jump out and the sound track is going to scream at you.

It’s not as bad as everyone said it was. Critics seem to like to pile on when they sense it’s popular to make fun of a movie for being bad. They like to get their shots in when a good punching bag presents itself. This movie was okay. It had a few good jumps, but it never really lives up to its inspiration.

Is it my cup of tea? Sure – C

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