Haunting of Winchester House (2009)

Despite a completely derivative script, a surprisingly enjoyable ghost story shot in 3D by Asylum director Mark Atkins. Point Blank R2 DVD

The Film

A family move into the Winchester mansion to serve as caretakers. They start to find themselves plagued by strange appearances which come to a head when their daughter disappears at the hands of a terrifying ghostly vision. The ghosts of those killed by the Winchester rifles still haunt the house built with the money from the firearms. As the night of terror continues, the family call on paranormal investigator Harrison Dent to help them find her.

The Asylum film company have gone from producers of late night SyFy channel original movies (usually along the lines of Giant-animal versus Mega-animal) to the notorious company behind 'mockbuster' releases timed to co-incide with big Hollywood releases, like Battle of Los Angeles (2011), conveniently released at the same time as Battle: Los Angeles (2011) or Transmorphers (2007) which emerged around the release date of Transformers (2007). Looking perhaps to cash in on the success of The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), Mark Atkins' script for Haunting of Winchester House is a real composite of ideas from various haunted house films, most notably The Shining (1980). Despite expectations the script is surprisingly effective as a haunting tale and although using every cliché in the book, it manages to raise a few good scares.

Unfortunately a variety of plot holes do distract somewhat - even in the opening scenes it is noticable that there is never any real explanation of what the family are doing in the house (it seems in need of workmen more than just caretakers). The whole Winchester house aspect seems to have been tacked on completely to allow for more random ghosts to appear and the 'based on a true story' tag, although it bears no relation to the real mansion which is a major tourist site and hardly the remote property seen here. Oddly, despite usually aiming their films at the young adult market, Haunting has a much tamer feel with a complete absence of sex and a bare minimum of blood. Fortunately the short runtime means that the film never becomes overly repetitive despite most of the middle part of the film consisting of the characters running and hiding from the ghosts. The script builds to a neat climax, although it is let down somewhat by an unnecessary ending.

Perhaps the biggest cash-in element of the film is its 3D shooting. Often dismissed as a passé gimmick, the format had something of a reprisal in 2009 and 2010 using more advanced polarising techniques to provide a comfortable 3D image - perhaps unsurprisingly, Asylum's straight-to-video production uses old fashioned red-green anaglyph 3D. The film contains a few of the typical 3D gimmick shots although its use is rather limited and the lengthy night time scenes dampen any visible 3D anyhow - with the surprising lack of exploitation elements Haunting even misses out on the chance for 3D nudity or blood splatter. Fortunately minimal use is made of CGI 'ghost' effects and the camerawork and editing are generally solid, making the film as watchable and coherent as the script will allow.

There are no major names in the cast but the acting is enough to keep the film moving. The only part that does not gel is the actress playing the couple's young daughter who seems about five years too old for the character she is supposed to be playing and whose voice seems completely wrong.

With their reputation for shameless cash-ins, many of the Asylum titles have been somewhat under-rated, any of their own merits lost in the comparisons to the films they try to mimic. Haunting of Winchester House is no rival for the best ghost stories and its DVD cover art seems to be trying to push a shock-a-minute shock fest which this certainly is not, but on its own merits this is an enjoyable, unassuming little horror film that with its surprising lack of exploitation elements and the old fashioned 3D effects, is a wonderful hark back to the 1960s American horror films. Ignore the copyright date and Asylum's reputation and don't expect a classic and you will find this quite enjoyable.

Note: The images above are taken from the 2D print of the film, click on the images for an enlarged version of the shot from the 3D print.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one well known.
Directed by anyone interesting? Mark Atkins - a regular contributor to The Asylum films, including their 'mockbuster' release Battle of Los Angeles (2011) and SyFy channel horror film Sand Sharks (2011)
Any gore or violence ? Nothing strong.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Of interest to open minded horror fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. Red/Green 3D.
Digitally filmed the print looks fine with no damage or compression. The old fashioned 3D technique drains most of the colour out of the print and gives it an unavoidable greenish hue when watching with the glasses.
Audio English 5.1 surround - sounds fine.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • 2D version of the film (identical to the 3D print).
  • Bonus trailer for Asylum's Invasion: The Beginning.
Note: The 'Making of' mentioned on the DVD sleeve is not included.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Packaging Standard Amaray case containing two cardboard red/green 3D glasses.
Other regions? Available in the US, including a Blu-Ray edition. Not all versions necessarily include the 3D print and some releases have a cropped image ratio.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. English language print.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 16th April 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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