Review - Haunting of Winchester House
Writer/director Mark Atkins
Stars; Michael Holmes, Lira Kellerman
Barry Womack, Tomas Boykin
The Grenier family Drake, Susan, and their daughter Hayley move to the famous Winchester House as the mansion's caretakers. Their stay proves not to be as restful as anticipated when vengeful spirits terrorise the family. When Hayley is kidnapped by the spirit of Sarah Winchester Drake and Susan turn to paranormal investigator Harrison Dent to communicate with the spirits to unravel their mystery that could put the souls to rest and return Hayley to her parents.
A Spooky Tale
The secret to a gripping haunting house tale, in a market vastly over saturated, lies with good characters and skilful execution. Ground your tale in an established legend and even actual reports and what you have a winner. Not enough credit is given to The Asylum's stable of creative talents for engaging storytelling and writer/director Mark Atkins is one of the studio's most capable filmmakers. Borrowing from numerous haunting classics that include 'The Shining', 'Poltergeist' and 'The Sixth Sense' Atkins economises on the scene setting and jumps straight into the scares. Any character development is revealed through the Grenier family and Dent's reactions. This adds a roller coaster ride feel to and almost risks being over as soon as it starts not helped by a short running time.
What saves the film is Atkins' skilful direction and editing maintaining the film's steady pace, and as an adept writer, successfully tapping into classic movie troupes interwoven with the back story and real life reported haunting of Winchester House. Like a roller coaster ride there are some twists and turns in true M. Night Shyamalan fashion and it is all aided by the main cast whose performances though won't win them any OSCARs are hardly deserving of a razzie. Delivery and timing are well executed with some sense of urgent fear which one would expect if you find yourself in a haunted house. Tomas Boykin as psychic extraordinaire Harrison Dent is by the far the best performer and most interesting character challenging preconceived notions of psychics and ghost hunters. Throughout he comes across as a calm collected and intelligent individual unafraid of getting into the thick of the disturbances. As the ill-fated Grenier family Holmes, Kellerman and Womack tick the all American family box and convey plenty of authentic scares once those ghosts come out to wreak havoc.
Haunting of Winchester House is very much an overlooked (no pun intended) film in the slew of haunted house ghost stories put to film. It's worth noting the average Asylum movie is generally shot and produced within two weeks and on low budgets. Given such restrictions the studio and its team the film holds up well, despite a few movie goofs, put together a tense 90 minute spooky ride with a tragic twist at the end. With solid performances and a real life haunting adding to the chills Haunting of Winchester House is an exercise in classic horror film making packed with scares, twists and tragedy not to mention a great way to spend a Saturday night popcorn in hand or even a title to add to your Halloween film-a-thon.