Winchester

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Winchester Movie Poster Image
Gun violence, jump scares in disappointing ghost story.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Vague arguments about gun violence -- i.e., whether a gun is a tool for good or for evil, whether it depends on who's holding it, or whether it's evil in and of itself. Should a gun's maker be held responsible for the deaths of those killed with it? But these ideas aren't discussed in depth, and no answer is offered. On the other hand, the movie's biggest conflict seems to revolve around whether to accept the supernatural/unexplained as a part of life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sarah Winchester isn't exactly a role model -- she earned her money and position because of her husband and weapons of violence -- but she's presented as a strong woman who's commanding and confident. She's decided how she wants things to be, and she makes them happen. The people who work for her and live with her seem dedicated to her and show her respect.

Violence

Gun violence, with shooting and killing. Minor blood spatter shown. A child who's possessed by a malevolent spirit fires a shotgun at a woman. Ghosts and scary stuff. Jump scares. Scar on chest.

Sex

A male character is shown in the company of three women, who may be hired prostitutes; he kisses all three as they go out the door. A woman's naked back is shown.

Language

A use of "bitch" and "damn," and "oh my God" and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character abuses laudanum, ingesting drops every so often from a glass dropper. His supply is taken away, and the problem never returns. He also drinks from a flask, drinks whiskey at home, and covets a drink while a guest at the Winchester house. Minor characters also take laudanum.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Winchester is a semi-biographical thriller about Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), who inherited her husband's highly profitable rifle company and then built the famous Mystery House in San Jose, California, possibly as a means of dealing with the ghosts of those who'd been killed by Winchester guns. Unsurprisingly, there's some gun violence, including a child who's possessed by a spirit shooting at a woman. You'll also see dead bodies and a blood spatter, and there are several jump scares, ghosts, and other scary stuff. One character is possibly abusing the drug laudanum, as well as alcohol, although he stops halfway through the movie, with few ill effects. The same character is shown with three women who may be prostitutes; there are subtle allusions to payment. One woman's naked back is glimpsed, and the man kisses all three of them. Language isn't really an issue, but there's one use of "bitch" and a use of "oh my God."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Uncle Written byTotalHonesty February 12, 2018

Great Movie with terrible reviews

This movie in my opinion was fantastic and deserves more than 4 stars. Very frightening and suspenseful. So... Let's move on to the TRUTHFUL parent guide.... Continue reading
Adult Written bybrendanc94 February 10, 2018

Based on the House itself

everything's very accurate she had carpenters, gardeners you name it working around the clock 24/7 until she passed away, It's very intense at times,... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bySlaughterer321 February 1, 2018

Pretty good!

I think this is a really good movie. Being a huge horror movie fan, I thought this was very interesting especially based on the fact that this is inspired by tr... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 23, 2018

HORRIBLE

I live near the Winchester house, and it's not creepy. now obviously they made this story super creepy so that it would draw more attention, but the story... Continue reading

What's the story?

In WINCHESTER, it's 1906, and rifle heiress Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) lives with her niece (Sarah Snook) in a wild, rambling San Jose, California, mansion that's continually being expanded, day and night. The board of the Winchester Rifle Co. hires Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) to evaluate Sarah's psychological state and determine whether she can hold on to her 51 percent of the profitable company -- or whether that ownership should revert to the board. A regular user of the opiate drug laudanum, Price goes to the mansion and immediately starts seeing ghosts. His interviews with Sarah show that she's clever and canny; she questions him as much as he questions her. He discovers that she talks to spirits -- supposedly victims of Winchester guns -- and builds rooms on the house to help them with with their unfinished business. Before long, an extra-powerful ghost arrives, and Price must decide what he believes in before he can help set things right.

Is it any good?

This movie offered the chance to combine a fascinating real-life story with high-class horror, but despite some positives, it loses focus on its main character and turns bafflingly routine. The directors -- Australian twins Michael and Peter Spierig -- previously made the moody, fun Daybreakers and the excellent sci-fi thriller Predestination, but little of that talent is on display here. Winchester starts well enough, filling in some of the details of Sarah Winchester's life and offering a fine, frosty performance by Mirren. But before long, the ghosts appear, and they're represented by terribly unimaginative visual effects and crushingly ordinary jump scares. (These are supposed to be "real-life" ghosts! Couldn't they be less movie-ish?)

As chaos ensues, the movie forgets its characters, especially Sarah's niece, played by the wonderful Snook, who gave such an extraordinary performance in Predestination. It even seems to forget whether its story is about ghosts, gun violence, or Sarah Winchester. Indeed, the movie's ultimate focus seems to be on the supervillain, the highly powerful ghost, who couldn't be duller. More than anything, and with so much potential, Winchester is just a huge disappointment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Winchester's violence. What role do guns play in the story? How does the movie view them? Are they a tool for evil? Do they have benefits?

  • Is the movie scary? Does it seem scarier -- or less scary -- than other thriller/horror movies because it's based on fact?

  • How are drugs and drinking depicted? Is the doctor an addict? What are the consequences?

  • Is Sarah Winchester a strong role model? Why or why not?

  • How much did you learn about Sarah Winchester from this movie? What do you think might have been changed for storytelling purposes? Would you be interested in researching to learn more?

Movie details

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