Directors The Spierig Brothers
Screenplay Tom Vaughan, The Spierig Brothers
Starring Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Laura Brent, Angus Sampson, Bruce Spence
As silly as it seems, there is was once a woman named Sara Winchester. She was the heiress of the Winchester family fortune, left to her by her late husband. Then she lost her son. After this, she bought a house in San Jose, California. For the rest of her life, she had workers build onto this house. The reasons are somewhere between creating homes for those killed by her husband’s creations and confusing them. I have been to this house. I didn’t see any of these restless spirits. I did see a bunch of confusing structures built beside, within and without.
Sara is played by Helen Mirren. She doesn’t add as much as one might hope, but just lending her countenance under a wig of old timey hair is enough for me. She is a foundation of acting talent and skill. It could have been just her walking around from room to room and it would be enough.
Given the remarkably small budget, getting Mirren and Clarke is a remarkable feat. They make the story a mishmash of the rooms for all spirits with one malevolent spirit ruining it for the rest of them. There are some scares in here, but not as many as one might expect for a house this insanely built. For those of us who’ve been to the house, it would be great to see something not on the tour.
Clarke is game, if not exactly on the level of Chappaquiddick. Let’s be honest. This isn’t Mirren in The Queen form either. We’re only meant to be lead around for PG-13 scares. Which is why this film is not worth seeing anywhere but at home on a 3 day weekend.
The Spierig Brothers are adequate filmmakers. There’s nothing you haven’t seen behind any door secured by 13 nails. The effects amount to fair makeup jobs after telegraphed scenes. One time, behind the twisting mirror, is more effective than anything else seen in the film. From this point on, one must rely on the wonderfully unique looks of Bruce Spence (Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) as a butler to give us the thrills we won’t get elsewhere.
It’s a training wheels ghost story. The house may deserve better, but we will need to suffice with Dame on a vacation.
(*** out of *****)