THE HAUNTING OF WINCHESTER HOUSE
The Asylum is a company that specialises in low-budget copies more famous films, all sold with soundalike titles designed to come out at the time of their namesake releases. See the likes of The Da Vinci Treasure (2006), Snakes on a Train (2006), AVH: Alien vs Hunter (2007), The Hitchhiker (2007), I Am Omega (2007), Transmorphers (2007), Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (2008), The Day the Earth Stopped (2008) 100 Million B.C. (2008), Sunday School Musical (2008), The 18 Year Old Virgin (2009), Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012), Age of the Hobbits (2012) and Atlantic Rim (2013), among others. With The Haunting of Winchester House, The Asylum hit onto the idea of a string of haunted house films all sold with the association of a famous haunting or murder (something that is frequently scanty to the point of near non-existence). Subsequent others among these include Gacy House (2010), Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes (2011), A Haunting in Salem (2011), The Haunting of Whaley House (2012), 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck (2012) and The Bell Witch Haunting (2013), most of which were conducted in the Found Footage format (although The Haunting of Winchester House is not).
Director Mark Atkins shoots the film cheaply on video. Unfortunately, the flat photography kills the atmosphere that a haunted house film needs to work. The house being shot in looks nothing like a mansion, nor one that was built in the early 20th Century. Atkins jumps are all tiresomely borrowed ones red herring taps on peoples shoulders, an endless array of peripheral figures moving through the background of shots, shapes moving under sheets/quilts and so on. The scores constant lurking, shrieking and lunging becomes overhyped in the endless attempts to generate atmosphere so much that it creates none at all.
The film picks up markedly with the introduction of Tomas Boykins paranormal investigator. Boykin has a striking piece of explanation where he talks about Stage 1 and Stage 2 ghosts as the difference between those that are stuck in limbo and those that are aware of their existence and much more dangerous. This gives the film a fascinating rationalisation of ghostly activity. The downside of it is that Boykin is abruptly killed off as soon as he starts attempting to exorcise the house and the rest of the film returns to the same level of dreary hyped scares. The plot thereafter goes from trying to generate scares to merely being a drama about giving the past closure. The film also reaches a creaky and well-over worn deathdream ending patented by An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1962) and most famously The Sixth Sense (1999).
The Haunting of Winchester House is made by Mark Atkins, a regular Asylum director who has also made the likes of Halloween Night (2006), Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (2008), Dragonquest (2009), Princess of Mars (2009), Battle of Los Angeles (2011), Sand Sharks (2011), Alien Origin (2012), Jack the Giant Killer (2013), Knight of the Dead (2013), Android Cop (2014), P-51 Dragon Fighter (2014), A Perfect Vacation (2015), Road Wars (2015), Planet of the Sharks (2016), Empire of the Sharks (2017) and Jurassic World (2017).