MARCH 26, 2010
Like Halloween Night*, The Asylum’s Haunting Of Winchester House is a knockoff of other horror movies, but not recent ones. And also like Halloween Night, it’s watchable and even entertaining at times, which is also a rare thing to say about an Asylum production. The acting and terrible casting (the 15ish daughter acts like she’s 7) are its biggest faults, instead of the usual lack of production value, scene for scene copying of better films, and total absence of action. This being a haunted house movie, it’s OK to have a little atmosphere and deficiency of visual candy. It’s Asylum’s own The Haunting!
But it’s not just aping Robert Wise; there’s a bit of The Others and LOT of The Sixth Sense in here as well - the whole thing hinges on ghosts that don’t know they’re dead, something we learn in a monologue that’s more or less identical to the exposition delivered by Haley Joel Osment in that film. But this time, the guy with the answers is a grown man, and why he doesn’t just tell these ghosts that they’re dead, or at least report that their bodies are in a ditch a few hundred yards from the house, is beyond me. Kind of an asshole, if you think about it.
The movie also shoots itself in the foot a bit by working in the history of the real Winchester house, owned by the widow of the guy who designed the Winchester rifle. She believed it was haunted by all of the folks that were killed by Winchester rifles, and thus she had her house continually remodeled/reconstructed nonstop, which she thought would keep the ghosts at bay. This resulted in a wacky house, with staircases that went to nowhere, interior windows, and doors on the ceiling. The movie just takes the “the ghosts are victims of Winchesters” idea, and doesn’t even really do anything with it - the three ghosts we see the most are all former residents who, like all ghosts in 2000s horror films, are simply trying to lead our living characters toward the corpse of someone who died accidentally.
As for the wacky house, nada. Not even a single stairway to nowhere. Since that is the far more popular/interesting aspect of the story, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t at least reflect it in some cheap way (just put a door on any wall!). It’s like doing a movie about Ted Bundy and leaving out the fact that he killed people. But really, they should have just given the house a generic name/history, since it has fuck all to do with the real meat of the story anyway.
The 3D works with the pink and green glasses, if you have a pair of those (it’s the kind that came with My Bloody Valentine 3D). As with all home 3D, it looks pretty lousy, so I only looked at it for a few minutes before turning it off and trying to uncross my eyes (seriously, it messed with my vision for a few minutes). But since the film was actually shot in 3D, and not some half-assed post-conversion process, I could see that if it was projected properly, it would be a pretty good 3D movie. Not a lot of “Comin at ya” crap, but there were some really good depth of field shots just in the few minutes I looked at. Unfortunately, this also washed out all of the color - not that it was exactly a Joel Schumacher-ian visual feast, but I don’t know why any filmmaker, even one working for the Asylum, would want his images to be all washed out so that a few branches on a tree would stick out more than the trunk.
I also didn’t see much of a REASON to shoot the film in 3D. They had to know it was going DTV, and it wasn’t particularly exciting on the page - most of the film is just two folks wandering around a house where not much happens (in fact, it might have BENEFITED from a few “Comin’ at ya!” shots, not just for the 3D gimmickry, but also for the fact that it would mean something exciting was happening). And the house is hilariously 2D - one room is adorned with, I kid you not, wall to wall “bookshelf” wallpaper (and drapes!). So even with the glasses, it would still be a flat image. Weird.
But, as I said, it has a slight charm to it, and I wasn’t as bored as I usually am with Asylum productions (even more impressive when you consider I don’t really care for haunted house movies in general). The little creepy baby (doll?) that makes a brief appearance is probably the best thing ever seen in an Asylum flick (well, 2nd greatest after Mega Shark ate that plane). And I liked the sort of depressing ending, where one ghost realizes their fate and hides it from the other ghosts, to keep them from the pain of realizing they are dead or something. I mean, if you think about it, it’s actually MORE painful a fate - they can’t talk to anyone (save for suspiciously half-assed mediums), are confined to their house, etc. But watching it without thinking about it - it’s sort of melancholy, even almost touching.
Along with the 2D/3D option, the disc has a brief featurette and an even briefer pair of deleted scenes, nothing of interest. Maybe those new 3D TVs that nobody can afford have the capability to show the film properly, but even in 2D this is a notch above the usual Asylum fare - maybe someday they will (possibly by accident) make a legitimately good movie!
What say you?
*I made this comparison before I even realized that Mark Atkins directed both films. But he was the DP on several of their schlocky knockoffs like Snakes on a Train, so he's not impervious to their usual gimmickry.