Sunday, February 04, 2018


As much as this review is a lot of "Jay really likes the Spierig Brothers and what they do well is why the movie is as good as it is", I have to admit that I probably won't ever see all their features. One of them is Jigsaw, which despite being sold as a sort of soft reboot, is effectively Saw 8, and when you've only see the first film in a series that has apparently grown famous for its convoluted continuity, well, being a fan of the team brought in for Part 8 isn't going to get a person into theaters. It probably doesn't help that, when I asked folks online about whether it's worth it as a fan of the Spierigs, I was basically told that they brought a level of basic competence you don't expect to Saw sequels, but it's still a Saw movie. Yikes.

Anyway, that's the movie I didn't see. The one I did see was all right, although I don't know if the experience was necessarily enhanced by the kids behind me saying they were going to leave if it got too scary and yelling "what the fuck" over stuff that's not that weird. Even for a PG-13 horror movie, it's not really terribly scary - a few jumps and some reasonably effective bits, but in a way too logical in how it's put together to really unsettle you, and a little too well aware of the studio wanting a PG-13 to really go for the gross-out or shock.


* * ½ (out of four)
Seen on 3 February 2018 in AMC Assembly Row #6 (first-run, DCP)

Winchester is one of those movies that is just good enough that one can understand why it attracted a fair amount of talent while also falling well short of its potential. It's full of enough good performances, solid ideas, and capable work that it's especially disappointing when it eventually shows a lack of ambition, or at the very least, the inability to deliver on its earlier potential.

The Winchester in question is Sarah (Helen Mirren), the widow who still owns 51% of the Winchester Repeating Rifle Company and whose unusual behavior goes well past a belief in spiritualism that is excessive even for 1906, but to constant expansion and renovation of her house, now a seven-story structure with little apparent rhyme or reason, with rooms demolished as often as they are added. The board therefore hires a psychiatrist, one Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke), to examine her, with the implication of a bonus if the abuser of various substances issues the "correct" evaluation. And so he goes to the house in San Jose, where Sarah lives with niece Marion (Sarah Snook), her son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O'Prey), a small army of servants, and builders working around the clock, seven days a week. Her claim that the constant construction is to draw out the ghosts of those killed by the family's rifles is peculiar, but strange enough things are going on to potentially shape Price's skepticism.

The Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter) are one of genre film's more interesting teams, if not one of the more prolific ones (this is just their fifth feature starting from Undead in 2003, and that includes last year's franchise work on Jigsaw), and the story of Sarah and the Winchester House isn't necessarily a stretch for them but does give them a chance to come up with some striking visuals and engage in a little bit of world-building. They and original screenwriter Tom Vaughan do an admirable job of building a supernatural story that makes sense by its own internal logic, slips into a period setting fairly smoothly, and still leaves room for surprises and scares. They're pretty good at knowing when to use a jump and when to have something silent and imposing, and there's enough understanding that the audience knows many of the tricks to make scenes like an early one where a mirror keeps coming into view a little more fun. Winchester may not be the meticulously realized world of Daybreakers or the perfect pretzel twist of Predestination, and it's not always put together with the lightest touch, but there's a bit more thought to how this all fits together than many horror movies display.

Full review at EFC

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