Winchester is a completely Australian production and a return to form for the country that wrote the better book on runaway film production than did Canada.
No really, you can always spot movies that were primarily filmed in popular places for runaway film productions like Canada, Eastern Europe (ie The Czech Republic, Hungary, etc), and Atlanta, Georgia. Canadian productions give themselves away because there’s something about the texture of the air that always gives it a warm Kodachrome like look, no matter what is done to grade the film in post. Movies made in Eastern Europe seem to make use of paints on sets that may be left over from the soviet era as the colors and textures on what are inevitably brilliantly designed and realized sets all seem surreal and as if they were meant to be cheap knock-off equivalents of Pantone colors. Atlanta typically makes the mistake of trying to convince viewers that various metropolitan locations around Georgia can fill-in for well-known places around the world like L.A. or Manhattan. Newsflash: They can’t.
Movies made in Australia though somehow completely buck this trend, perhaps because they either acknowledge their Aussie roots, focus on movies that question reality from the get-go, or simply rely heavily on sets and green screen, which is totally fine. I’ve always been a bigger fan of movie studio backlots and sound stages than location shoots.
Winchester follows a cookie cutter horror format that we’ve seen quite a bit over the past twenty years, but it’s a cookie cutter from Williams-Sonoma, not Sur Le Table or Target, and it has Bruce Spence, so it’s required viewing. You might think that the A-List talent here would phone things in for a horror flick like this, but they don’t and you can tell they’re having fun, especially Mirren who I think is going to start having a blast making these sorts of movies going forward, much like Liam Neeson kicks ass in transit once or twice a year. I’m not going to get tired of Liam Neeson movies any time soon.
This movie also manages to be timely with the gun debate and race issues currently plaguing….scratch that, not currently, more like forever….the US and does so in a way that’s not too heavy handed and can completely go over one’s head if they don’t want to think about such things while switching on their lizard brain to be entertained by a popcorn horror flick for a couple hours.
So I heartily recommend this as a fun scary horror movie that draws on a true story (Sarah Winchester and her psychological stuff) and punches it up with supernaturality (is that a word?). Well made and all levels for the type of film that it is an the genre it falls into. It’s not going to win any awards, but it sure did win my approval.
And it had Bruce Spence…