Soundtrack Review: Winchester (2018)

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Winchester is a 2018 American supernatural horror film directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. It follows the widowed Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) as she seeks to help what she believes are spirits killed by Winchester rifles by continually expanding the mansion she lives in (what is now known as the Winchester Mystery House). Due to Sarah’s obsession with spirits, a doctor named Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is summoned to the mansion to determine whether Sarah is mentally capable of running the Winchester Company. The doctor, who does not initially believe in ghosts, soon finds that there are indeed spirits residing in the Winchester mansion. Winchester was released to theaters on February 2nd, 2018.

The score for Winchester was composed by co-director Peter Spierig in his second outing as a film composer. Peter collaborates with his twin brother Michael and collectively they work as The Spierig Brothers. Their critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller Predestination, based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies”, was nominated for nine Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, including Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score for Peter. The film also won four AACTA Awards including Best Actress for Sarah Snook, who stars in Winchester. The Spierig Brothers won the Toronto After Dark Film Festival Special Award for Best Sci-Fi Film and Best Screenplay for Predestination, which also took a second place Audience Award for Best Feature Film.

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Listening to the soundtrack, some moments definitely stood out to me, but overall one thing became pointedly clear: the Winchester score succumbs to the age-old trope of using shock chords in a horror film. It’s a practice that dates back many decades and in my opinion it’s completely over done. It’s true that horror films should have that “scare factor” to them, especially in the music whenever possible, but there’s more than one way to elicit scares through the music.

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However as I said there were a few moments that stood out to me in a good way. One of these was “Marion,” referring to a relative of Sarah’s that also lives in the mansion with her son Henry. In contrast to the “Winchester House” track which is fairly typical horror movie score fare (loaded with shock chords, grinding metal sounds and various eerie noises), “Marion” is a relatively calm piano track that possibly signifies how “normal” the character is compared to Sarah Winchester with her belief in spirits and the paranormal. “Employment” also ran along similar veins to this piece.

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“Poisoned Mind” was another track filled with shock chords, far too much for my liking to be honest, as was “You’re A Fraud.”

In brief, Winchester doesn’t have the worst soundtrack in the world (for those curious, Van Helsing (2004) still holds that dubious distinction for me), but it is not one of my favorites.

Did you watch Winchester? If you did, what did you think of the film and the soundtrack? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Have a good day!

See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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