Apparently ghosts are pro-gun control. Don't take my word for it, The Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael) have taken a slice of American history in Winchester and turned it into a "guns are bad" jump-scare-a-thon that for all its ear shattering jolts is a yawn inducing bore.
The Spierigs most recently turned in the studio cash grab that was Jigsaw and return once again as directors for hire in this ill-conceived ghost story based on true events. Somehow Helen Mirren was tricked into starring as the rifle heiress, Sarah Winchester, who orders her California based mansion to be under constant construction. Sarah believes that she and her family are cursed and haunted by the restless spirits of victims who died at the hands of various Winchester rifles. The construction is of rooms is designed to recreate the rooms the victims died in and are sealed with 13 nails until the spirit locked within can find peace. Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is called upon to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Sarah to determine if she is fit to run the Winchester Repeating Rifle Company at the same time Sarah is trying to rid her mansion of one of the most dangerous and vengeful spirits she's ever encountered.
With the Spierig's at the helm Winchester doesn't fall along the lines of "badly made" so much as it just feels like filmmakers operating on autopilot. Winchester at times looks very good with sweeping arial shots of the unique mansion recreated to match the early days of its construction. Other times it's just your typical run-of-the-mill ghost story. There's no conviction to how the story is told and simply comes across like someone reading a poorly written Wikipedia excerpt out loud to you.
With talented actors the likes of Jason Clarke and Helen Mirren you might at least think someone elevates the shoddy script to something passable for a Sunday matinee--but you'd be wrong. Mirren gives her role the ol' dignified try, but even her acting chops can't quite pull off the silly dialogue lodged in the film's final act. Clarke spends the first act heavily medicated, the second act bored of the ghostly shenanigans and when he finally has a chance to help the audience feel something he just sort of shrugs, puts on his masculine hero face and boom the movie's over.
Horror newbies might be able to get on board with Winchester with its over abundance of jump scares, but vets will cringe at the lack of genuine dread, atmosphere and charisma. The unique dwelling and unusual true life story should have been an immensely engaging and visual treat, but Winchester was depressingly given a window treatment for audiences to pass by shrug off and move on without a second thought.