Let me start by saying the reclining chairs at Hoyts Woden are amazing.
Now we have that out of the way, I love movies on the big screen with a coffee and no one around me. It’s why I go on my own and it’s why I got in the middle of the weekday. Very few people in the theatre make for a great experience, particularly when it’s a horror movie. They are my absolute favourite. Not the slasher ones, but the ones that play on your mind and get into your psyche. Winchester does that.
Here is the premise. The most haunted house in the world sits on an isolated stretch of land that’s 50 miles outside of San Francisco. Built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester fortune, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To an outsider, it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. I’ve heard building a house is stressful but this one more so than your average family home. Sarah has built a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts – and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters.
I’ve known about the Winchester house for some time. I’m a bit of a haunted house fanatic even though I have never been to one. I’ve read a lot about this house and its stranger builder, Sarah Winchester. With the gun debate in the US continuously raging, the message in this movie is apt. The ghosts are all victims of the Winchester repeating rifle and they have come to settle a score with its inventor’s widow.
Winchester is an American – Australian production and the Australians in the audience will recognise lots of familiar faces. The wonderful Sarah Snook who shined in The Dressmaker is fantastic as Sarah’s niece. Angus Samson who plays Sarah’s right-hand man has been all over our TV’s for so long I feel like I know him personally.
Jason Clark plays Eric Price, a psychologist employed by the Winchester company to assess Sarah’s mental capacity. Dr Price has a little habit with drink and drugs after the deal of his wife and Sarah confiscates both. As he comes down from the effects he begins to see visions and they are enjoyable frights for the audience. His assessment of Sarah becomes a fight for his own sanity and we learn Dr Price is much closer to the mystery of the Winchester house than he wants to be.
Critics haven’t been kind of Winchester but for those of us who love a good psychological ghost story, it’s 99 minutes of bliss and I don’t think you can go wrong with Helen Mirren. The costumes, the architecture, the history, it’s all there to be enjoyed. I was immersed. In my reclining chair, with very few people around me, Winchester pushed all my buttons.