I’ll have to give credit where credit is due. The disappointing haunted house flick Winchester is one of the rare instances where a filmmaking team have somehow managed to work an anti-gun PSA into a tale of things that go bump in the night. Say what you will but that’s certainly not something you see every day. In fact, I can’t recall ever having seen anything like that, at least not in recent memory. Fright flicks are usually one type of film that shun politics but not this one. Unfortunately, it’s about the only unique thing you’re likely to find in this otherwise dull tale of a house full of ghosts that refuse to let the heiress at the center of the film have a moment’s peace.

Following closely on the heels of his last career misstep, the convoluted thriller All I See is You, Jason Clarke stars as Dr. Eric Price. It’s just after the turn of century in the year 1906. Price is one of those world weary skeptic types, albeit with a bit of an opiate addiction, who is sent to prove the mental incompetence of a particular individual. In this case, Sarah Winchester, whose deceased husband William’s family created the Winchester rifle (Ed. note: this movie is based on a true story). The company shareholders want her out of the way as they feel she’s gone cuckoo with her reports of spectral visitors and such. Sarah is played by the usually great Helen Mirren whose participation in this film is a bigger mystery than anything found in the film’s story.

Sarah has built a house in San Jose where the ghosts of those whose fate was met at the end of a smoking Winchester rifle barrel can freely roam. Dr. Price must determine whether the ghosts are real or imagined. Or, in other words, make sure that sufficient reasons are determined in order for Sarah to be carted to the loony bin so that the less scrupulous can get their hands on the company’s income potential. I’ll bet anyone reading this can predict the answer to that probing mystery.

Winchester offers nothing you haven’t seen many times before, and more effectively done elsewhere. The scares, what few they are, never really amount to much and can be telegraphed way in advance. When it’s all said and done, Winchester is just, simply put, a big bore. I kept thinking to myself that the true account of these events has to be more interesting than what’s on display here. I’d be willing to take that bet.

Winchester is playing in Hickory and around the area.

Image: Helen Mirren in Winchester

Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].