The Spierig brothers’ ‘Winchester’ under fire from US critics
Michael and Peter Spierig’s supernatural thriller Winchester opened in third place in US cinemas last weekend, the only new wide release on the Super Bowl weekend.
Shot mostly in Melbourne, the film starring Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Angus Sampson and Eamon Farren was No. 1 on Friday but lost momentum on Saturday and Sunday, probably impacted by withering reviews.
The CBS Films/Lionsgate release scared up $US9.3 million on 2,480 screens, earning a “B-” CinemaScore from opening day audiences, which skewed 58 per cent female vs. 42 per cent male; unsurprisingly 64 per cent of the overall audience was over the age of 25.
Remarkably Sony’s blockbuster Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ranked at No. 1 in its seventh weekend, ringing up $10.9 million on 3,352 screens. The fantasy action-adventure directed by Jake Kasdan has amassed $352.5 million in the US and $855.7 million worldwide.
Fox’s Maze Runner: The Death Cure came second, plummeting by 56 per cent to $10.5 million on 3,793 screens, which brings the 10-day total to $40 million.
The follow-up to the Spierig brothers’ 2017 hit Jigsaw, which cost just $US10 million and grossed $103 million worldwide, the 1906-set haunted house movie based on a true story stars Mirren as Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester arms fortune. She renovates her seven-story, 100-room San Jose mansion to try to ward off evil spirits and as a compassionate gesture to the victims of gun violence.
Clarke plays Dr Eric Price, an opium-addicted psychologist who is hired by the Winchester company to assess her mental state, hoping that he will declare her unfit to lead the company.
StudioCanal will launch the film produced by Blacklab Entertainment’s Tim McGahan, reuniting with the Spierigs after Predestination, and Imagination Design Works’ Brett Tomberlin, in Oz on about 180 screens on February 22. “Exhibitors are very supportive,” says StudioCanal’s Greg Denning.
In the US the marketing campaign kicked off when media outlets visited the production during shooting on location at the Winchester House in San Jose California, and the house hosted numerous paranormal investigations
The Thursday night previews included a live psychic reading that was broadcast to hundreds of cinemas across the country while the social campaign centered on the history of the house and Winchester herself.
Genre movies generally are critic-proof but the reviews seem to have taken a toll on Winchester. The New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis declared “the script is as batty and clichéd as its heroine. The house… never feels like a single space, as ho-hum apparitions appear and disappear without a trace. Ms. Mirren and her representatives are probably hoping the movie will do likewise.”
Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers railed at a “smothering blanket of cinematic bland” and said the Spierigs shamelessly pile on haunted-house clichés that lost their juice decades ago.
More generously, the Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Dalton found the movie promises more sophisticated shocks and psychological depths than it ultimately delivers but it’s a visual treat and Mirren, as ever, brings a touch of class.