On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 1, 2018

Though the directing duo of brothers Michael and Peter Spierig made one of the worst films of 2017 in what was the eighth Saw film it was hard not to hold out hope for what these guys might do outside the IP pool given Jigsaw was likely an opportunity they couldn't (financially) turn down. And so, in what feels like their true follow-up to their highly underrated and underseen 2014 time travel flick, Predestination, the brothers Spierig take on the real life mysteries likely still held within the walls of the winding Winchester mansion that is located in San Jose, California and was constantly under construction by the widowed Sarah Winchester for thirty-eight consecutive years until her death in 1922. Weird, right? Definitely. Couple this unique spin on the haunted house premise with the fact the Spierig's have somehow managed to attract the talents of rather pedigreed actors like Jason Clarke and the indelible Helen Mirren and one has to wonder what the attraction was. The Spierig's also reunite with Predestination star Sarah Snook here, but Snook is unfortunately underutilized as Mrs. Winchester's niece who has recently moved into the ever-growing mansion with her son after the death of her husband. This is all to say that Winchester has plenty of potential and while it never fully capitalizes on the ample opportunity it has to transcend the genre trappings and become something of a more self-conscious and timeless work it is a solid and sometimes even surprising haunted house tale that uses the audiences expectations to its advantage and takes certain elements in directions that feel fertile. The Spierig's screenplay, in collaboration with Tom Vaughan, relies too heavily on jump scares to garner the necessary reactions for being a member of the horror genre, but even still-they serve their purpose more often than not. Resorting to these easy, cheap scares feels a way of accounting for a requirement the Spierig's weren't really interested in though, as Winchester is seemingly more inclined to explore how cruelty, grief, and loss can affect people in different ways and to varying degrees. If the Spierig's had figured out a more inherently haunting way to convey their tone and the actions of those supposedly trapped souls in the rooms of the titular mansion this might have been a more convincing study on such topics, but as it is the film comes and goes with more simplicity than it does depth or scares. Full review here. C

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