Monday, February 26, 2018

2017 Box Office Predictions Part Two RESULTS (May Thru August)

Last year my nephew Kyle and I began a tradition of predicting the year's Box Office Hits and Flops. We didn't do so well in 2016, as Kyle's predictions had a 41% accuracy rate, and mine was even worse at 37%. I guess we vastly underestimated the general moviegoing public's willingness to sit through literally anything.

We decided to try our hands at predicticating again this year, and see if we could do better this time. Below are the results of our 2017 Box Office Predictions Part Two (May thru August)My predictions are in red, while Kyle's are in blue.

Note: I don't want to have to keep saying this over and over, so keep this in mind— due to marketing and other costs, these days a movie has to make around TWICE its PRODUCTION BUDGET in order to break even. So if a movie cost $100 million to film, it's gotta gross $200 million before it actually makes a dime! Crazy, huh?

OK, let's see how we did!

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
Bob predicted: No question this will be another major hit for Marvel. The first Guardiansgrossed $773 million worldwide. I would expect this one to do at least $800 million, if not more.

Kyle predicted: $850-900 million easy. One of the biggest hits of the summer.

Budget: $200 million
Domestic Gross: $389,813,101 • Foreign Gross: $473,942,70
Worldwide: $863,755,804 


Wow, we both got it pretty much on the nose! Honestly it's not tough to accurately predict success for a Marvel movie.

Point for each of us!

King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword
Bob predicted: I reeeeeeally wouldn't get my hopes up for five more sequels. The trailer doesn't look bad, but it's got a brutal release date, coming out just a week after Guardians Of The Galaxy. Ouch! I don't see it passing the $100 million mark. I think it'll be lucky if it makes $80 million.

Budget: $175 million
Domestic Gross: $39,175,066 (!) • Foreign Gross: $109,500,000
Worldwide: $148,675,066
Verdict: Money-Losing BOMB!

I knew this movie was gonna flop, but I had no idea it would tank this badly! Less than $40 million in the States! Like I said, America just doesn't seem to like poor Charlie Hunnam!

If you only count the domestic gross, sadly I was all too right. Half a point for me.

Alien: Covenant

Bob predicted: I was NOT a fan of Prometheus, as I thought it was nothing more than a lame stealth remake of ALIENIt made an astonishing $403 million though, proving people will see anything with a title they recognize. I think some viewers will feel burned by Prometheus (HAW!) though, and may skip this one. I'm predicting it'll make around $200 million.

Kyle predicted: 
Box office prediction: I hope it bombs hard enough to end Ridley Scott's career, but not hard enough to delay Alien 5 any further.

Budget: $97 million
Domestic Gross: $74,262,031 • Foreign Gross: $166,483,733
Worldwide: $240,745,764
Verdict: Slight Financial Hit

I predicted "around" $200 million and it made $240 million. Unfortunately Kyle's hatred of Ridley Scott prevented him from actually making a prediction.

Point for me, no point for Kyle.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Bob predicted: Ugh, another one of these? The fourth film premiered a whopping six years ago, and only grossed $241 million in the States. However it made an unbelievable $804 MILLION in the rest of the world, for a grand total of over a BILLION DOLLARS!!!

I think it'll be a flop here, grossing less than its $230 million budget, but the worldwide market will save it.

Budget: $230 million
Domestic Gross: $172,558,876 • Foreign Gross: $622,392,918
Worldwide: $794,861,794 
Verdict: Reasonably Successful Financial Hit

I said it'd gross less than its budget, and boy, did it! Over a hundred million less! I think the combination of Johnny Depp's alleged domestic abuse, plus the fact that audiences are just tired of this franchise is what torpedoed this movie. As predicted, the overseas market saved it. 

Point for me!

Wonder Woman
Bob predicted: Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad made $875 million and $745 million respectively, despite both being steaming piles of hot garbage. So it doesn't matter if Wonder Woman is a good film or not, it'll inexplicably make a crap-ton of money as well. I don't think it'll do quite as well as Suicide Squad though, so I'm gonna say it'll gross around $600 million worldwide.

Budget: $149 million
Domestic Gross: $412,563,408 • Foreign Gross: $409,283,604
Worldwide: $821,847,012 

I was way off here, as I said it'd gross $600 worldwide, and it made over $800 million! I guess I underestimated the number of women who saw the film as some sort of feminist rally cry and tool for social change, rather than a corporate product designed to sell toys.

No point for me.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Bob predicted: Kids love the book series, and it's a CGI cartoon, so it's already a hit. If Boss Baby can gross almost $400 million worldwide, I see no reason why this won't do the same or better.

Budget: $38 million
Domestic Gross: $73,921,000 • Foreign Gross: $51,506,681
Worldwide: $125,427,681
Verdict: Financial Hit!

YIKES! I seriously overestimated the popularity of this movie! I said it'd make $400 million worldwide, and it barely cleared a hundred mill! Whoops!

No point for me.

The Mummy
Bob predicted: The trailer didn't do anything for me, as it looked more like another Mission: Impossible movie than a horror film. The film went through three directors, which is never a good sign, and it's produced by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the hacks, er, producers who brought the world such fine cinematic achievements as Star Trek Into DarknessNow You See Me 1 2 and Enders Game

As a result of this I have absolutely zero confidence in the film, and no desire to see it whatsoever. Despite this, I think it might gross around $250 million.

Budget: $125 million
Domestic Gross: $80,227,895 • Foreign Gross: $329,003,712
Worldwide: $409,231,607
Verdict: Surprising Financial Hit

HOLEE CRAP! Another big miss. The movie was terrible, so I'm happy to see it fizzled and tanked here in the States. Unfortunately stupid foreigners flocked to the thing for some reason, making it a huge, huge financial success.

No point for me.

It Comes At Night
Bob predicted: There's a lot of buzz about this film, and low budget horror films generally always make a small profit. This comes out the same weekend as The Mummy though, so I have a feeling it's gonna get buried. I think it'll make around $50 million.

Budget: $2.4 million
Domestic Gross: $12,985,117 • Foreign Gross: $5,295,814
Worldwide: $19,280,931
Verdict: Inexplicably Moderate Financial Hit

Whoops! Once again, I wildly overestimated the public's interest in a film. Even though it made less than $20 million worldwide, due to its minute budget it STILL manage to make a profit! There just ain't no justice in the world!

No point for me.

Cars 3
Bob predicted: I wasn't a big fan of Doc Hollywood, er, I mean Cars when it came out, and I didn't even bother seeing the second one. They're not making these movies for me though, so what I think doesn't matter. It's Pixar, so it'll automatically gross at least $350 million.

Budget: $175 million
Domestic Gross: $152,901,115 • Foreign Gross: $230,988,036
Worldwide: $383,889,151
Verdict: Disappointing Financial Flop

Hey, I came pretty close here, as I said it'd make at least $350 million and it came in right around there. That's a far cry though from Toy Story 3, which grossed an astonishing $1,066,969,703! Over a BILLION dollars! I hate to say it, but it's starting to look like the glory days of Pixar may be over.

Point for me!

Transformers: The Last Knight

Bob predicted: Against all logic and reason, these films have always been huge hits— Age Of Extinction grossed over ONE BILLION DOLLARS!!!! I expect no different from this one. I'm gonna predict it'll gross at $800 million at the absolute least.

Budget: $217 million
Domestic Gross: $130,168,683 • Foreign Gross: $475,256,474
Worldwide: $605,425,157
Verdict: Moderate Financial Hit

Woah! Another wrong prediction, as I missed by $200 million! I ain't even mad though, as I hate this franchise with a white hot passion. This is the lowest grossing film in the Transformers series to date, which gives me hope that the public is finally starting to tire of these cinematic turds.

No point for me.

Amityville: The Awakening
Bob predicted: No lie, I've been seeing the trailer for this cinematic turd off and on since 2014. That is not an exaggeration. It must be exceptionally bad if it's been delayed for three years. I smell a bomb.

Budget: $???
Domestic Gross: $742 • Foreign Gross: $7,701,166
Worldwide: $7,701,908
Verdict: No Budget Info, So Impossible To Say

No, that's not a typo— the movie really did gross $742 dollars here in the States. The behind the scenes story is actually more interesting than the actual movie. I really have been seeing the trailer since 2014, and assumed the film would never actually come out. 

Welp, at long last, it was finally released in October of 2017— to a whopping ten theaters in the States. TEN! It made $742 dollars in two weeks (!), before being shipped off to Google Play.

Somehow it managed to rack up almost $8 million overseas. I still can't find any info on the film's budget, so I can't tell if it made a profit or not. I can't imagine it cost more than two or three million to make. If that's true, it probably broke even, but no more.

I said it'd be a bomb, and I think grossing $742 qualifies. Point for me!

Despicable Me 3
Bob predicted: The first film grossed $543 million, while the second made a mind boggling $970 million. Could this one cross the billion dollar mark? I'm gonna say no, as the all-Minions Minions movie may have stolen some of this film's thunder. I predict around $750 - $800 million.

Budget: $80 million
Domestic Gross: $264,624,300 • Foreign Gross: $770,175,109
Worldwide: $1,034,799,409

Oops! Another underestimate on my part. I thought the Minions movie would steal some of this one's thunder, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Amazingly, Despicable Me 3 grossed a whopping BILLION dollars! And it's the third film in the series! I'm stunned. Stupid kids! Quit going to these things!

No point for me.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Bob predicted: You know the story by now— after the two subpar Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, Sony admitted they have no idea what they're doing and asked Marvel Studios to make a new film for them. Fans made a huge deal out of his small cameo in Captain America: Civil War, so there may be some life left in his franchise after all. I'm gonna guess it'll gross around $600 million.

Kyle predicted: Despite this being a Marvel movie on paper, Sony still has some influence on this movie, and that concerns me. 
Needless to say, despite Marvel's involvement, I'm not confident that Spider-Man is in good hands yet. Still, should gross at least $750-800 million.

Budget: $175 million
Domestic Gross: $334,201,140 • Foreign Gross: $545,965,784
Worldwide: $880,166,924
Verdict: Big Financial Hit

Well, it looks like I underestimated again, and by another $200 million. Kyle got it almost right on the nose with his $800 million prediction.

No point for me, but a point for Kyle.

War For The Planet Of The Apes
Bob predicted: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes grossed an impressive $481 million, while the sequel, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes nearly doubled that, at $710 million. I'm betting this one will do at least as well or better than Dawn. I predict around $850 million.

Kyle predicted: I really like the last two planet of the apes movies, and I believe that they are some of the best examples of how to do a reboot-sequel-requel-prequel the right way. The last two entries in the series grossed $481 and $710 respectively, I think this one will split the difference, and land somewhere between $550-$625.

Budget: $150 million
Domestic Gross: $148,880,162 • Foreign Gross: $343,784,076
Worldwide: $490,664,238
Verdict: Disappointingly Moderate Financial Hit

Hmm. Looks like we both missed the mark here. This third film in the series suffered a huge drop-off, as it barely managed to gross more than the first film. I'm not surprised, as I honestly found this third installment lacking.

No point for me or Kyle.

Bob predicted: I can't find any info on the film's budget yet, but Nolan reportedly earned a whopping, record-breaking $20 million dollars to direct (!). Nolan's insisting on practical effects again, refurbishing old WWII ships to use in filming. Given all that, I'd expect the budget to be at least $200 million. It's gonna have to be a massive hit just to break even. I think it'll probably make $100 to $150 million here, but be saved by the overseas grosses.

Budget: $100 million
Domestic Gross: $188,373,161 • Foreign Gross: $337,200,000
Worldwide: $525,573,161
Verdict: Reasonably Large Financial Hit

I was pretty darned close. I said it's make around $150 million and be saved by the overseas grosses. And that's pretty much what happened.

Point for me!

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets
Bob predicted: The comic's pretty well known in Europe, but virtually unknown here in the States. It'll definitely do better overseas than it does here. Sadly I think it'll get lost among all the other summer movies— especially Dunkirk, which opens the same weekend— and flop hard here, but be saved by the foreign market. I'm betting it'll gross around $300 million worldwide.

Budget: $177 million
Domestic Gross: $41,189,488 • Foreign Gross: $184,684,740
Worldwide: $225,874,228
Verdict: Disappointing Financial Flop

I like the Valerian comic quite a bit, so it saddens me that the actual film was so muddled and subpar. Sadly, I was right that it would flop hard here. I honestly thought it'd do better overseas though, since the comic is much more well known there. 

I'm gonna give myself a half point here.

The Dark Tower
Bob predicted: I've been a Stephen King fan for decades, but I tried to read the first novel in this series and quickly gave up,. As a result I know little or nothing about the property and have zero attachment to it. From what I've read, the movie takes great liberties with the novel, changing a LOT of elements, which is sure to piss off the hardcore fans. I don't see it being a huge hit, and bet it'll barely break even.

Kyle predicted: 
I’m not sure why this is being made, and I can’t see it being anything other than a massive box office bomb.

Budget: $60 million
Domestic Gross: $50,701,325 • Foreign Gross: $62,473,228
Worldwide: $113,174,553
Verdict: Well Deserved Financial Flop!

Well, our vague pronouncements served us well here. We both said it'd bomb, and that's just what happened. Despite its low $60 million budget, it barely managed to scrape up enough dough to break even. It's no wonder, as the final film was a jumbled mess that only faintly resembled the source material. 

Point for me and Kyle!

The Emoji Movie
Bob predicted: I realize I'm not the target audience for this kind of film, but this looks dreadful. And really, Sony? You're doing "Sh*t Happens" on posters for kid's movies now? Classy!

Sony's had some moderate success with their Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs series, The Smurfs movies and The Hotel Transylvania franchise. I'm gonna say this one will make $400 million at the most.

Budget: $50 million
Domestic Gross: $86,089,513 • Foreign Gross: $131,165,718
Worldwide: $217,255,231
Verdict: Inexplicably Mild Financial Hit

Hmm. Another big miss for me. It managed to turn a profit, but nowhere near the $400 million I predicted. Maybe kids have better taste than I thought.

No point for me.

Blazing Samurai
Apparently this movie either didn't come out when planned or was released direct to video.

Annabelle: Creation
I like The Conjuring movies quite a bit. The Annabelle spinoff, not as much. Now we're getting Annabelle's completely unnecessary origin story, in what has to be a first-- a prequel to a spinoff of a movie in a successful franchise. 
Premieres August 11.

Bob predicted: The first film was a surprise hit, grossing $256 million against its meager $6 million budget. Wow! I would expect this one to be no less successful. I predict it'll make around $300 million.

Budget: $15 million
Domestic Gross: $102,092,201 • Foreign Gross: $204,423,683
Worldwide: $306,515,884

Apparently the film was renamed Annabelle: Creation sometime after I first posted about it. Amazingly I hit it right on the head with my $300 million prediction. That makes it a HUGE financial hit for Warner Bros./New Line, since the budget was a minuscule $15 million.

Point for me!

Another film that was either delayed or not released to theaters.

Same. Either delayed or not released to theaters.

So that's it for our 2017 Box Office Predictions Part Two (May Thru August). Let's see how we did!

Bob: 42% Accuracy Rate

Kyle: 60% Accuracy Rate

Welp, I only managed a 42% rate, which is way down from the 66% I scored in the January through April predictions. I need to hone my predicting skills, stat!

Kyle's prediction ability improved, as he scored 60%, which was a vast improvement over the 20% he got in January through April. Of course it didn't hurt that he only made six predictions!

Stay tuned for our 2017 Box Office Predictions Part One (September through December) results!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

It Came From The Cineplex: Winchester

Winchester was written by Tom Vaughan and the Spierig Brothers. It was directed by the Spierig Brothers.

Vaughan has a pretty small resume, as he previously wrote Unstoppable and Playing House. The Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter) previously wrote AND directed The Big Picture, Undead, Daybreakers and Predestination (which is a VERY bizarre little time-travel film). They also directed (but didn't write) Jigsaw.

The film concerns the real life Sarah Winchester and her bizarre, maze-like mansion that  was haunted by the ghosts of everyone ever killed by her company's weapons.

That's actually a cool little premise for a horror film. Unfortunately the filmmakers flubbed it big time, as Winchester isn't the least bit scary. I know I say that a lot in my reviews, but it's never been more true here. There's no blood or gore, no spooky or interesting ghost designs or anything even remotely frightening in its ninety nine minute runtime. Like most modern horror films it's rated PG-13, but I honestly don't know why. They could have just as easily rated it G. I've seen scarier episodes of The Twilight Zone on TV.

It's obvious the filmmakers are trying to evoke the mood of the Hammer Horror films of the 1960s and 1970s here. All the classic Hammer ingredients are present: the reclusive heiress with a dark secret, a creepy Gothic mansion filled with ghosts, and a general atmosphere of dread. Unfortunately the filmmakers have no idea what made the Hammer films so appealing, and miss the mark by a wide margin. Pick the worst movie Hammer  Studios ever made, and it'd still be spookier than this mess.

There's also a very strong anti-gun message in the film, which is timely I suppose. Unfortunately it's given so little focus that the filmmakers might as well not have bothered with it.

The producers took advantage of real life to loudly proclaim that this film is "inspired by true events." Technically, I guess that's correct. There really was a Sarah Winchester, she really was the heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, she really did live in a vast mansion and she really ordered non-stop construction on it. 

As you might expect, that's where the truth ends. Everything else about the movie is pure and utter bullsh*t. Obviously the mansion isn't haunted by the demons of everyone who was ever killed by a Winchester rifle, and Sarah didn't try to trap them all in the every-growing number of rooms inside her mansion. 

That's all just a minor detail to the producers of course. Because a small part of the story is true, they're hoping the audience will believe the whole thing is fact!

At first I wondered how the filmmakers managed to con an Oscar™-winning actress like Helen Mirren into starring in a lukewarm vehicle like this one. I suspected maybe they'd blackmailed her somehow. But after checking out her resume, I was surprised to see she's not above appearing in genre films. She previously starred in Excalibur, 2010, The Twilight Zone (the 1980s version), The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, RED, Monsters University and RED 2. Still, Winchester seems like a step down for her.

Apparently a large portion of the general public is under the impression that Winchester is a big budget theatrical version of the Supernatural TV series. This is because people are idiots. See, Supernatural is about Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who travel the country hunting ghosts and demons. Because of this confusion, the movie's being released in some countries as Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built. Oy.

So far the film's a very mild box office success, grossing $23 million against it's tiny $3.5 million budget.


The Plot:
In 1906, shareholders from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company approach prominent psychiatrist Dr. Eric Prince (played by Jason Clarke). They're concerned about Sarah Winchester, the widow of the company founder, who's inherited his $20 million fortune and a controlling stake of the company.

According to the shareholders, the deaths of Sarah's husband and child have caused her behavior to become erratic. She's started consulting mediums and psychics, holding seances in the mansion. Even worse, she believes her home is haunted by the 
ghosts of everyone ever killed by her company's weapons. To that end, the mansion is continually under construction, as she believes this will somehow trap the angry spirits inside. 

The shareholders are anxious to ship Sarah off to the nuthouse, and want Eric to pronounce her mentally fit to run the company. To make sure they get the diagnosis they want, they offer him a large bonus if he says the old lady's nuts.

Eric has a troubled past as well, as he's struggling to get over the recent death of his wife Ruby. To help ease his pain, he's become addicted to laudanum and consorts with known prostitutes (GASP!). He's reluctant to get involved with the shareholders, but can't say no to the cash. He eventually agrees to examine Sarah.

Eric arrives at the Winchester Mansion, where he's greeted by Sarah's niece Marion Marriot, and her young son Henry. Marion knows why Eric's there, and is openly hostile toward him. She gives Eric a tour of the bizarre house— a maze-like space with no rhyme or reason, containing stairs that lead to the ceiling, interior walls filled with pointless windows and doors that open to nothing. She shows him to his room on an upper floor.

As Eric prepares for dinner, he suddenly sees a ghost in the mirror, standing behind him. When he turns, of course there's nothing there. He laughs it off, chalking it up to a laudanum hallucination and shakily heads downstairs. He enters the dining room, where he finally meets Sarah. Dinner is tense to say the least, as she knows why he's there as well, and is cold and distant to him.

That night Eric can't sleep, so he leaves his room and explores. He sneaks past the construction crew, who work on the house 24/7. He hears voices coming from a greenhouse attached to the mansion, and tries to enter. Unfortunately the door and windows have been boarded up, meaning no one could possibly be inside. 

Just then there's a commotion, and he sees Henry standing on a high window ledge. He jumps, and Eric somehow manages to run several hundred feet and catch him before he hits the ground. Marion thanks Eric for saving her son, and begins to warm up a bit. She admits Henry's been acting strangely lately, almost like he was... possessed.

The next day Eric interviews Sarah to see if she's crazy or not. She admits she believes in ghosts, and knows all about his laudanum addiction. She has the drugs removed from his room, and forbids him from wandering the halls after hours. She even posts a guard outside his room to make sure he doesn't leave! 

That night, Eric figures a way to sneak out and for some reason goes exploring again. He spots Sarah in her study, seemingly possessed as she stares straight ahead while drawing plans for a new room.

The next day, Sarah shows Eric that she keeps records of everyone ever killed by a Winchester rifle, an accomplishment which seems dubious at best. She says whenever she senses a new ghost, she's compelled to design a room for it. Once it's done, the ghost enters the room, and she has it sealed inside with thirteen nails. This is why the mansion contains so many superfluous rooms— each one allegedly has a ghost trapped inside. 

Eric immediately pronounces Sarah insane, she's removed from the company and the film ends. Oh, wait, I up that entire sentence. Instead he believes her, and the movie still has an hour to go.

Sarah notices that Eric always carries a Winchester shell with him. He reluctantly explains that several years ago he was shot and killed by a rifle (!), but apparently got better. He had the shell engraved with the words "Together Forever," and keeps it as a reminder of how precious and fragile life is or something.

The workers finish the new room Sarah drew, which is filled with cabinets containing one of every type of weapon the Winchester company sells. While Eric and Marion chat, Henry's possessed by a spirit again. He sneaks off, grabs a rife from the new ghost room and tries to shoot Sarah with it. Fortunately Eric stops him in time. A visibly shaken Sarah says this new ghost is the most violent one she's ever encountered, and it'll take all her strength to defeat it.

Eric says they need to get Henry to a hospital stat, and Marion agrees. Sarah, now in full crazy mode, forbids it, saying they can handle him themselves. Eric looks for a phone, and encounters a creepy butler. He turns out to be the ghost of Benjamin Block, a Confederate soldier whose brothers were both killed by Winchesters. We then see a flashback, as Ben entered the Winchester office and killed fifteen employees before the police shot him to death. The gun room Sarah had built is an exact duplicate of the one in which Ben died.

Suddenly the mansion begins shaking, as the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake hits (apparently?). Workers and servants are killed as parts of the mansion collapse and rain down on them. Ghost Ben locks Sarah inside the gun room and starts tossing her around, slamming her against the walls. Amazingly, this somehow doesn't kill the frail, elderly woman.

In all the confusion, the still-possessed Henry takes off running, as Marion chases after him. Eric runs through the shaking mansion, and is confronted by more ghosts who were killed by Winchester rifles. So I guess they weren't "trapped" in their rooms after all? I'm confused. 

Eric sees the door to the greenhouse is now open, and ducks inside. There he sees the ghost of his wife Ruby, and it's revealed that she was actually mentally ill, but Eric somehow missed all the signs. At the height of her craziness, she shot Eric with a rifle before turning it on herself. He tells her he's sorry, and Ghost Ruby forgives him for screwing up her diagnosis. She tells him he needs to help Sarah defeat Ghost Ben.

Down in the basement, Marion and Henry are cornered by the ghosts of Ben's brothers. Upstairs, Eric finds Sarah and traps Ghost Ben in the room. Ben's too powerful to defeat though, until Eric realizes he's terrified of his rifle shell memento. He grabs one of the rifles from the shelves, puts the magical engraved shell in it, and uses it to shoot Ghost Ben. He's destroyed, and for some reason this causes all the other spirits to return to their rooms and decide to be trapped again. The ghosts of Ben's brothers disappear as well, saving Marion and Henry.

Everything's then wrapped up, as Eric's absolved of his guilt and pronounces Sarah to be sane. Sarah, Marion and Henry wave as he drives off.

Inside the mansion, we zoom in on one of the ghost trap rooms. A nail falls out of a board sealing the door...

• In the film, we're told that Sarah Winchesters's fortune amounted to $20 million, which made her one of the richest women in the world. Thing is, $20 million doesn't sound like all that much money today.

If you plug that amount into an inflation calculator though, her $20 million dollar inheritance would be worth around $525 million today. Holy crap!

• This is a production still of Helen Mirren as the reclusive and enigmatic Sarah Winchester.

The shot's based on this famous image of the real Sarah Winchester. As you can see from the caption, this is the "only known portrait of her in existence."

Except for this one, of course, which I found after about thirty seconds of googling. I guess I should cut 'em a break, as people weren't able to search the internet in 1906.

• The real Sarah Winchester had severe, debilitating arthritis that made it painful to raise her feet more than a couple of inches. Because of this, it was impossible for her to climb stairs. To remedy this, she had a series of short risers placed in one of the house's stairwells. This allowed her to reach the upper floors with a minimum of pain.

Credit where it's due
— this is actually shown in the movie, as Eric remarks on a series of ramps leading to an upper floor. Kudos!

Of course once it's established that Sarah has arthritis, it's never brought up again and she never displays any trouble getting around. In fact Ghost Ben throws the old gal against the wall a few times, with little or no damage!

• I have to admit, the idea that Sarah and her mansion are being haunted by the ghosts of everyone ever killed by a Winchester rifle is actually pretty clever.

Unfortunately the concept was lifted directly from DC Comic's Saga Of The Swamp Thing #45. In that issue, two couples enter the deserted mansion of the late Amy Cambridge, the heiress of the Cambridge Repeater Rifle Co. I guess the names were changed to protect the innocent? The intruders soon get lost in the vast, maze-like home, which is haunted by the ghosts of everyone slaughtered by the company's guns (!).

Sounds pretty familiar, eh? Paging the Warner Bros. Legal Team!

• At one point, Sarah tells Eric that she keeps detailed records of every person who was ever killed by a Winchester rifle. Just how she manages to accomplish this amazing feat is left to our imaginations.

Where the hell is she getting this info? Is she constantly in touch with every coroner's office all across the country? What about victims in remote areas, whose deaths are likely to go unreported?

Keeping records like this would be tough even in today's high-tech and interconnected world. It would be downright impossible in 19 freakin' 06!

• Supposedly Sarah builds the various rooms in her house to trap the angry ghosts that haunt her mansion. Once a ghost is lured into a room, the door's sealed shut with thirteen nails. For some reason, this magic number of nails prevents the ghost from escaping.

But then near the end of the ghosts all start pushing the nails out of their doors, escape their rooms and start wreaking havoc on the mansion and staff. But at the end of the movie, Eric "kills" Ghost Ben, which causes all the other spirits to obediently return to their rooms so they can be sealed in again.

Wha...? So apparently these ghosts had the power to remove the nails in their doors and escape any time they wanted, but didn't do so for years. Why they never did so is left to our imaginations. Even more puzzling, once the plot runs its course, they all dutifully float back into their rooms and wait to be sealed in again. Got it.

• Late in the third act, the Winchester mansion starts shaking, as parts of it come crashing down. It's heavily implied that the huge number of ghosts in the house were causing the destruction, and that's what I assumed happened. 

So imagine my surprise when at the very end of the movie, a caption mentions The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Wha...? So... it wasn't the ghosts shaking the house then, but was actually a perfectly timed earthquake?

That's gotta be one of the worst plot developments in cinema history! It's a movie about ghosts! They're the antagonists, so they should be the ones responsible for knocking down the mansion, not a coincidental act of nature! It doesn't make any sense in terms of storytelling or drama. It's the same thing as finding out the Rebels didn't destroy the Death Star, because it blew up due to faulty wiring.

• Here's a shot of the real Winchester mansion, located in sunny San Jose, California. You can take a tour of it, if you're interested.

Here's a shot of the mansion as seen in the movie. As you can see, they did a pretty good job of recreating it. Well, except for that large tower in the center of the house, which doesn't exist in the present day. So what's it doing in the movie?

Welp, prior to 1906, the mansion was actually SEVEN stories tall, as seen in this actual vintage photo. As you can see, there really was a tower at one point.

However, the house was severely damaged in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed the top three floors. Sarah was reportedly trapped in her bedroom for several hours before finally being rescued by her construction workers. She left the damage unrepaired, and after that had the workers build outward instead of up.

So the movie version of the house gets the fact that there was once a tower right, but incorrectly depicts the house as being four stories high prior to the quake. Odd.

• Very little filming took place in the actual Winchester mansion. The real house is supposedly very cramped, which made it impossible to fit camera and sound equipment in the various rooms. Most of the mansion's interior were studio sets.

• So what was up with Sarah Winchester? Why did she constantly build and renovate her mansion for decades? Surprisingly, there's no definite answer.

According to legend, she believed her family was cursed by the spirits of the people killed by Winchester rifles (just like in the film). She consulted a spiritual medium named Adam Coons, who advised her to move to the west coast and build a mansion to trap the unruly spirits. 

In 1886, she purchased an eight room house in San Jose, California. She then began renovating the house, and construction went on twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for the next thirty eight years. When asked why, Sarah replied that her psychic told her she'd die if construction on the house ever stopped (!).

The additions to the house followed no obvious rhyme or reason, and included stairs that lead to nowhere, labyrinthine corridors and upper floor doors that open into space. This was supposedly done to confuse the spirits within the house, and prevent them from escaping.

Sarah was also supposedly obsessed with the number thirteen, which was worked into the house as much as possible. There were thirteen bathrooms, thirteen panes of glass in every window, thirteen candles in each chandelier and so on.

As much as fans of the supernatural would love to believe all this, it's a load of hogwash.

Sarah Winchester's biographer did extensive research on her and the house, and could find no evidence to support any of these claims. It's unlikely that Sarah moved to San Jose on the advice of a medium, but because dry climate was good for her debilitating arthritis.

As for why she ordered constant construction on the mansion, the simplest answer is likely the best she wanted to keep her workers employed. Sarah had dozens of carpenters working for her around the clock, and reportedly paid them triple the amount they'd make anywhere else. The mansion's bizarre layout was just her way of giving them something to do!

And an account from a carpenter who actually worked on the house denied the house was filled with "thirteens" as well. According to him, such elements were added after Winchester's death, to make Sarah's story more appealing to tourists!

Winchester steals takes what could have been a clever premise and totally squanders it, giving us a meandering, unfocused and tepid excuse for a film. As is the case with most PG-13 horror movies, there's nothing remotely frightening about it, unless you're terrified by musical stings and incessant jump scares. It even tries slipping in an anti-gun message, but then does absolutely nothing with it. Not even the presence of a talent like Helen Mirren can save this mediocre outing. I give it a well deserved C-.

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