Film review: Winchester is a serviceable supernatural chiller

Winchester is still in cinema's. Picture: NA

Winchester is still in cinema's. Picture: NA - Credit: Archant

The premise for directors Peter and Michael Spierig’s latest directorial outing is intriguing.

Set in 1906, the film focuses on drug addicted doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) who is sent to assess the psychological state of Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), widow of weapons industrialist William Winchester, who claims to be haunted by victims of the titular rifle.

Sadly, neither the talent in front of nor behind the camera can elevate the material above a dull, if occasionally rather fun supernatural horror.

The main problem lies in many of the film’s central performances, particularly Mirren.

Usually an engaging presence, the actress is on particularly poor form here, her distractingly unsteady accent and blank expressions detracting from the sense of intrigue generated by Ben Nott’s cinematography and Peter Spierig’s eerie score.

Sarah Snook is also ineffective, her grieving widow Marian Marriott registering as nothing more that a walking, talking cliche.

It is Clarke’s performance that keeps the proceedings watchable.

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His tortured gazes beautifully capture the character’s traumatic past. It is a powerful performance, but one that unfortunately cannot save the film from the frustrating, incoherent mess of predictable plot twists and poorly executed set pieces into which it descends.

Despite its abundance of flaws, the directors move the film along at an enjoyably brisk pace and fill it with enough ghoulish imagery to keep audiences engaged.

Winchester is a serviceable supernatural chiller emboldened by some effective jump scares and Clarke’s captivating central turn.