Sunday 6 February 2011

Rifling Secrets of the Winchester

Haunting of
Winchester House 3D
2009 USA
Directed by Mark Atkins
Point Blank DVD
Region 2

Normally I’d put a spoiler warning in colour highlighted text at the start of a review of this kind of movie where I will, and I state this now by way of a caution, reveal the so-called twist ending of this movie. However, the only warning I could possibly give you to this kind of viewing experience, and it is an experience, is that you really would never, ever want to subject your poor eyeballs to a film that is quite this bad. So a spoiler warning makes no odds really... and besides, you’ll guess the final twist when a certain incident happens about five minutes into the movie... if you’re silly enough to waste the number of minutes of your life that viewing this movie will take from you.

This movie cost about £3 from a local Asda supermarket... and for that startlingly value-for-money price you get, not only the movie in 2D, but also the “full on” 3D version of the movie and two pairs of 3D glasses for watching said version so that not just you, but you and your designated friend, lover or family member can both simultaneously see this dubious entertainment and have your torturously bored minds feel like your inner souls are being sucked from your bodies and subjected to the worst tosh you’ve had to survive watching in years.

The one thing I might possibly add to this last statement is that... after you’ve payed your £3 (for any American readers that’s about 4 dollars and 82 cents at the current exchange rate) and sat through this soul-sucking extravaganza... you’re possibly going to be wondering why the distributors didn’t pay you to be watching his tripe and not the other way around!

Now I quite like bad movies and will quite often knowingly buy absolute garbage because I know it will be fun garbage and not take itself too seriously. Horror films are even better because the “rules of the horror film” are so simple to follow and recreate that it’s very rare a director can screw it up. So when a film like Haunting of Winchester House comes up and makes you realise that even editing sequences in an order that doesn’t totally jar the viewer is not even a given... you sometimes get the painful reminder that not every movie maker is competent enough to put out a coherent movie and that rare revelation makes you appreciate some of the more competently put together rubbish just that much more.

This movie, the story of a father, mother and daughter who move to a haunted house as the dad has a new caretaking job there, is a truly dreadful film. The script is bad and obvious as when... and here’s where my spoiler is folks and, believe me, I’m doing you a favour... the family car takes a tumble off of a roadside down a hill on the way to the house and the three of them have to walk the rest on foot... not realising that they actually died in that car crash and are therefore ghosts and more subject to seeing the aspiring to be but totally lame spookiness of their personal “haunting”.

On top of that the acting is poor, the direction seems muddled but that might be because the editing is all over the place with sequences that just don’t seem to make sense or be in the right order once the “haunting” gets properly under way. There’s a big piece of blurb about how this DVD contains extra footage which wasn’t found in the theatrical version... Hmmm... let me think about that for a second. Well, for one thing, I just don’t believe this mess of a movie was ever released theatrically. I’m pretty sure this “horror” of a movie (as opposed to bona fide horror movie) was part of the modern “straight to DVD” phenomenon. And secondly, I reckon I can spot some of the extra footage without ever having seen the “previous version”. There’s sequences in here where the characters are walking around even though you just saw them kidnapped and then saying the same lines they just said five minutes ago... I don’t think we’re seeing extra footage of new scenes put back in the movie... I think what we’ve got here is a case of alternative versions of those same scenes edited back in side-to-side with the original footage so as not to waste shot footage which the director or producer may have thought good enough to inflict on his victims (that’d be us, the audience) and couldn’t make up their mind about which version to go with... so they just spliced them in together in the hopes that by this time your brain will be sufficiently numbed not to notice. Honestly, I’m just guessing here but... well I reckon that’s probably a lot closer to the truth than we’re ever going to know on this one.

Oh and by the way, I did mention you get two pairs of 3D glasses to watch this with, right? I guess that means the distributors think that anyone dumb enough to buy this movie is going to actually have no more than one friend to be able to watch this with. And besides... it’s really terrible 3D which works infrequently at best. Yes... you and your haunted horror movie watching kindred spirit can both indulge in the act of head turning, squinting, squatting just in front of the TV at different angles like a game of Twister, checking the “cardboard glasses” to see if you’ve got them on the right way round (it’s using the old red and green “lens” system) and finally end up shouting at each other to see if the other one can actually see a certain shot in 3D or whether the whole screen has just gone completely green because your rebelling eyeballs are rounding up support with pitch-forks and flaming brands to jump right out of your watering eye sockets and chase you around the room for making them look at such mindless drivel! Regardless of the 3D!

So there you have it. Did I like this movie, you may be wondering at this point? The answer would have to be, perhaps less than surprisingly, no. Did I enjoy this movie? Well yeah, kind of actually. It’s actually very rare that I get to see a modern movie that is so incompetently made that the shots and sequences jump all over the place and don’t even match up with each other. And the acting is something else... in fact it’s anything else other than acting! Seriously, it’s an experience to watch (and how) and I will be lending this to my friend and his wife to watch (with the disclaimer that eyeballs could be damaged and that reactions to the lack of artistic verisimilitude are entirely at the viewers risk) but... I can’t in all honesty say that I am contemplating ever watching it again.

If you like horror movies then you might want to give this one a wide berth. If, however, you like driving the wrong way down a crowded street of oncoming traffic 20 miles over the speed limit and ignoring any hazard signs, oblivious to those strange wailing sirens you can hear catching up to you in the distance... then you might want to give this behemoth of lumbering ham-fistedness a quick watch... if, you know, you have nothing better to do... like watching paint dry or balancing coins on your elbow and then trying to catch them.

Oh... one last thing... apart from never trusting a quote from DVD Review again, after giving it such glowing praise on the front cover jacket of the DVD, the box also tells the less than cautious potential viewer that it’s “The Terrifying True Story”. Seriously now, how can this movie be based on a true tale if nearly all of the main protagonists are dead after the first five minutes. Was this screenplay written at a seance? Think about it!


  1. This is the most scathing review I've ever read from you! Yet you manage to keep your sense of humor and appreciation of the truly, truly bad. Perhaps it's better to watch this than the more competent yet forgettable average straight-to-DVD fare. It's provided us with a very funny review, and you with countless memories while you're balancing coins on your elbow.

  2. Ha! Yeah it is my most scathing I reckon but I really didn't have much appreciation for this one. Quite appalled by it, I was. :D