Movie Review: WINCHESTER

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winchesterLionsgate / CBS Films
2018
PG-13

I’m a mother. A fighter. A protector. And I am not afraid.

On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters.

To answer your unasked question: Yes, I am familiar with the Winchester House. You really can’t be an enthusiast of spooky legends and folklore and not know something about the house that ghosts built. I’ve never visited the place myself (as I rarely travel farther than a few states away from my neck of the woods); I do have a couple of friends who did tour the house during their honeymoon. They say it was…expansive.

It’s from this legendary house where we get the premise of the movie Winchester. Clearly, going into this, the notion that this was “based on actual events” is secondary to the horror flick this wants to be. Whether you believe in haunting and vengeful spirits or not, I find that going into these kind of flicks as straight-up fiction lends to a far more enjoyable watching experience.

As a movie itself, Winchester works well as a rather enjoyable slow-burning Gothic ghost story. Something like a classic Castle-style throwback, with lots of dark and spooky atmosphere, some decent jump scares (fortunately, the movie doesn’t rely on them like a lot of haunting movies out nowadays), very good visuals and some rather good acting from the cast.

Overall, I think Winchester is one of the better “true haunting” type horror movies to come out in these modern times. Far better than any of the long list of The Haunting Of… movies that always populate my video streaming suggestions. This works best as a late-night viewing, with all the lights off and preferably on a dark and stormy night, with a big bowl of popcorn. Recommended.

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Movie Review: The BLACKWELL GHOST

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blackwell ghost, theAmazon Prime
2017
R

Continuing on with my Amazon Prime viewing odyssey, we come across this little independent film called The Blackwell Ghost. For all intents and purposes, I’m pretty sure Amazon Prime is the only place one can view this movie, as I can’t find any other place online that carries it for streaming. Just as well.

The whole premise of The Blackwell Ghost is your standard documentary-style short — it’s only just under an hour long — where an independent filmmaker who primarily makes zombie movies is inspired by a YouTube video of a haunting at a hotel to make his own documentary to prove the existence of ghosts and paranormal activities. After a bit of a dead end lead, he finally gets invited to stay overnight in a purportedly haunted house in Pennsylvania. So, he and his wife fly out and set up to spend three days there, hoping to capture something. What follows is your standard Paranormal Activity style movie, interspersed with research commentary by the filmmaker. The cameras start acting up, power goes off, loud noises and doors opening by themselves, along with the water faucets being turned on. Then something happens that makes him freak out and leave (and leaves us scratching our heads as to what he saw to flip out like that)…and then the movie ends. No one gets possessed, no one dies, no one disappears mysteriously. A ball that was upstairs appears in the basement, that’s about it.

As you may have guessed, The Blackwell Ghost has something of a big buildup with no follow-through. What’s amusing is that this was attempted to be presented as genuine video footage of a paranormal disturbance. It’s not, but I’m not saying that because I’m a skeptic — this review here proves the lack of veracity by picking apart the continuity flubs and film making techniques much better than I can. As a movie itself, though, The Blackwell Ghost is one of the better shot faux documentary style shorts I’ve come across. The principle cast, for lack of a better word, is actually interesting enough to keep my attention. I’m glad for the short running time, though, as near the end I did find myself getting frustrated and shouting DO SOMETHING! at the laptop screen. Alas, the movie didn’t listen.

Overall, I don’t really consider The Blackwell Ghost a complete waste of time. It was put together pretty well, and works more as an example of how to make an independent film. As a horror movie…yeah, no. I would say, it’s worth a look at least.