Winchester (2018)

Imagine going to see a magician. You sit in the crowd watching, wondering whether he’ll be any good. She (for the purposes of this hypothetical it’s a female magician) comes on stage and for her first trick pulls a lion out of a hat. Wow, pretty impressive. Then for her next trick, she turns a bouquet of flowers into a Ford Fiesta, again you’re impressed. She then produces a hat, you’re excited to see what she’ll do, you anxiously await to see what will happen. Drum roll, lights dim, and she slowly reaches into the hat and pulls out……a lion. I mean, that’s still impressive, but less so than it was before.  But then she gets another bouquet of flowers out. You fear the worst, and she does the worst, transforming them again into a Ford Fiesta. She repeats those two tricks for the entire night. Now, no matter how impressive those tricks were the first time you saw them, would you still consider that a good show? No, you’d consider it a waste of time and ask for your money back. That, pretty much, is what watching this film is like. It runs out of steam after the opening scares, which, by the way, aren’t needed. You can cut the entire opening and it wouldn’t affect the film at all. Actually, it might improve it as it would save some of the creepy visuals for later.

I really wish this film was better. It has a great concept, someone has acquired vast sums of wealth but feel guilty by the deaths caused by it, so seeks to make amends to those who have died. That would be a great character-driven drama to have. It also wastes the location. It’s set in a house that’s constantly changing and with no real floor plan. That’s PERFECT for a horror film. A house that’s a maze, trapping people in there making you wonder if the house is genuinely set up like that or if the characters are losing their minds. Actually, that would be a great survival horror video game; you’re locked in an ever-changing house and need to escape before you starve to death and the longer you last the harder it gets as you start to suffer hallucinations.

And now back to the film. It has its good points. There’s a scene near the end where a room full of guns suddenly rise and point themselves at the main character, it’s a beautifully composed shot in an otherwise visually-lacking film. The story has potential but never really fully lives up to what you think it can do. The performances are……..okay. Helen Mirren deserves better than this. Jason Clarke continues to be a dependable “where do I know that guy from? Oh right, ALMOST EVERYTHING” guy. His performances are usually pretty good, but every single one makes it seem like he’s the guy they get in to replace the actor when a successful film franchise goes straight to DVD. I’ve never really found much to fault with his performances, but I’ve also never been overly impressed, he’s just been there, like the casting equivalent of white bread.

I think that’s the best way to describe this film actually; bland. When I come to the end of year list this will be really hard to write about and place as I don’t think I’m going to be able to remember much about it, in fact, if I didn’t keep a list I’m not sure I’d even remember I saw it. Helen Mirren deserves better, the story deserves better, and the audience deserves better. It kind of feels like a modern remake of a far superior film.

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