The Pioneer

New thriller based on San Jose home

Photo courtesy of TNS

Photo courtesy of TNS

Nicole Nool,
Contributor

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Like the house and it’s features, the “Winchester” film is just as overwhelming

Creaky floorboards, zig-zag hallways, windows and doors that lead to nowhere and a staircase that can send you down a 12 feet drop. These are all integral parts of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, which is now featured prominently in a new horror film, “Winchester,” starring Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren.

The Winchester House is known as “the most haunted house in America.” In 1906, Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Co., built the house with no apparent end because she believed she was cursed by spirits killed by Winchester Rifles. The nonstop building and confusing interior of the house were meant to confuse the spirits that she felt were looking for revenge upon her. The house did not cease construction until her death in 1922 and since has been recognized worldwide as a tourist destination as well as a historical landmark in the Bay Area.

The inside of the house offers a sense of nostalgia and an insight into the past. It may be the house’s Victorian themed, four-story structure or maybe it’s the fact that there’s no air-conditioning available to cool down tourists navigating their way around. It’s undoubtedly a bizarre house, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

The film “Winchester” should have been an entertaining take on the infamous house but unfortunately turns out to be a disappointing horror movie.

One would expect “Winchester” to be about Sarah Winchester and her psyche, along with the creepy house itself. Instead, it centers around a fictional character, Dr. Eric Price, played by Jason Clarke of “Dawn of the Planet of The Apes” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”

I was expecting more out of Mirren whose roles usually leave a lasting impression. I have no complaints about her portrayal of Winchester, however, her role could have gone to a lesser known or less accomplished actress. This is a forgettable role for her. However, Mirren’s casting did make up for the lack of interesting and underdeveloped characters that were hard to empathize with.

At the end, Winchester ultimately comes down to be a very small part of the grand scheme of the entire movie. It’s almost as if those behind the film put Mirren’s face on the posters simply to draw an audience.

The movie includes cheap jump-scares and apparitions that add nothing but comedy to the already choppy plot. Where is the truth in “based on actual events”? The movie may as well have been advertised as “an unconvincing dramatization of actual events.”

One unnecessary angle to the film was the inclusion of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Historically, the house was indeed affected by the earthquake, but the film uses the event to connect and exaggerate a poorly executed battle between an apparition and Winchester. Rather than dig deeper into the rich history of the house and her family’s business the movie includes a historical event that only had a minor effect on the overall history of Winchester.

At the end, the resolution of the plot completely veers away from Winchester and the house and begins to blame how guns “made” the ghosts. The movie becomes a giant advertisement on the effects of gun-violence which is a cliche.

The film could have had the potential to showcase so much more or the Winchester’s background. It could have further explored Sarah Winchester and her mental state. Instead, it did an injustice to the actual history of the house and its owner which in retrospect are far more interesting and creepier than the film. But hey that’s a Hollywood horror movie for you. If it doesn’t sell at the box-office, the real Winchester House will surely continue to bring in visitors from all around the world.

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