Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just Watched: Haunting of Winchester House

When I was flipping through Netflix the other day (my savior over Christmas break) I came upon this really cool looking movie, and I'll admit, decided to give it a go for two reasons: (1) I love haunted house movies, and (2) the cover looked really scary with its severed, broken doll head coming out of the ground. Now normally, I go into these movies expecting to be disappointed, which I won't lie, to an extent I was, but at the same time, I'm always drawn to them because they take a place in a setting that is supposed to be one's sanctuary and then turn it into a living nightmare.

In the beginning, we are introduced to a family of three that are on their way to Winchester house for a few months stay.  Right off from the beginning, I could taste the tension when the mother was shown staring at an empty car seat, assuming that she had either recently lost a child or was thinking back to when her older daughter was a baby.  Once they got on the road, and could see the house over the hill, they were blind sighted by a car and nearly go run off the side of the road -- giving them a frightful start to their new lives.

Frankly, I must admit that the house looked great with its atypical shifts in the roof and its angular cuts on the windows; it was perfectly Gothic, hidden away in the woods, and it was one of those houses were you look at it and say "There is no way in hell that I am going in there." But what got me the most, was how/why the family didn't look into the houses history before they moved in -- because when the creepy guy that pops up in every haunted house movie came to warn them about the haunting(s) or the spirits, they looked disgusted and annoyed.  I did like the spin that the man was a paranormal investigator, rather than just an ordinary guy down the street.  Also, I enjoyed the fact that the haunting(s) started right away -- especially since the little girl saw the dead daughter first, and then was locked down inside one of those old fashioned storm cellars.

Note:  All of the spirits were from the 19th century and my  favorite one in the move, hands down, was the one who was deaf, because he was flat out terrifying since he primarily spoke with his eyes.  Furthermore, he carried around a deaf board (a chalk board slate around his neck) to write messages back then, and now for the family that is currently living in his house.

SPOILER:
Now let's get serious.  This movie could have been GREAT if I had any idea why the hell the house was haunted in the first place.  A few times they mentioned something about gun victims, so I'm not sure if these spirits were all shot during some crazy siege or massacre and are just pissed off and taking vengeance on the people that inhabit the house, but regardless, there needed to be more explanation so that the viewers could be afraid of the spirits and know their intent in the first place.

So with that in mind -- explain to me the rest of the significance of the movie considering it dealt with a daughter who was killed accidentally by the blind man, and whose also dead mother was looking for her after all these years.  I get that that was why the dead woman stole the family's daughter so that they would be forced to find her daughter's skeleton...but how does this go along with the gun plot?? Still a little confused -- maybe a second viewing would help to better understand it, but I wasn't too fond of those quirks the first time through.

But on a more positive level, the ending made up for the rest of the movie's shortcomings,because throughout the entire plot, we learn about the two types of ghosts: (1) ghosts that do not know that they are dead and (2) ghosts that are staying around because of intense emotions such as anger, regret or love.  This is emphasized throughout the entire plot line and naturally, we are assuming that the investigator is telling us this because of the angered spirits in the house, and is just trying to help the family (which he reiterates over, and over again) -- but at the very end of the movie, when the family escapes the house and goes to get in their car to leave, they notice that their car is gone, and then the mother sees the skid marks from earlier in the day when that car ran them off the road.  Turns out though, that the family really was run off the road, and all killed on impact -- leaving them to be the type one ghost that doesn't understand it's dead yet.  So at the end, one realizes why the family was able to see the ghosts, why the investigator continually made remarks about how he was there to help the family, and more importantly why when the father called the police, that they couldn't understand them (i.e.  EVP -- how when ghosts speak, it sounds like static).

All in all, it wasn't a bad movie and while I have some issues with the story line, I will admit that the ending was beautifully written. I absolutely loved that the family was dead the whole time, and that even when the mother found out that they were dead at the end, that she decided not to tell her family out out love.  I would recommend this to someone that has Netflix and has some time to kill, but if you have to spend money to rent it and have a time limit to give it back, get An American Haunting or A Haunting in Connecticut  instead.