Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, (Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren) heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman's madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook) or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters.
Tourists have not been allowed to take photographs as far back as 1989. In 2009, well before Lionsgate bought the film rights, The Asylum film company released a low budget horror film called Haunting of Winchester House and did so without the permission of the Winchester estate as the house is privately owned and operated as a tourist attraction. It was explained that someone connected with the filmmakers surreptitiously took photographs of the interiors of the house on several of the tours in effort to get schematics of enough of the floor plan and of the interiors . The estate has never allowed filming inside the house or grounds for that reason.
Due to the age of the house and the condition of the Victorian interiors, flash photography has never been allowed on the tours. See more »
When the front of the mansion is shown, CGI is used to depict the 7-story tower that existed on the mansion in 1906, and the colors of the mansion are changed from their current (2018) colors, yet the final (1922) configuration of the mansion's main facade is shown. In 1906, the facade was quite different, as construction between 1906 and 1922 changed the mansion drastically.
When overhead shots of the mansion rooftops are shown, the current (2018) colors are visible, and there is no sign of the 7-story tower (it was torn down after the 1906 earthquake) even though the spot where it should protrude is shown several times. See more »
While it is clear that The Spierig Brothers are familiar with all the haunted house horror story conventions, they, like Rob Zombie before them, do not seem to be able to effectively use them. A fondness for the genre does not translate into the ability to engage and frighten an audience.
Before anyone dismisses my review as being from someone who doesn't enjoy deliberately paced, creepy stories without a plethora of pyrotechnics, let me state that The Haunting (the original not the crappy remake) and 1944's The Uninvited are two of my favorite films. You don't need a large budget or special effects to make a scary film on the subject of a haunted house. Both Insidious and Sinister demonstrated that with good direction and a decent story you can scare the hell out of an audience.
While Winchester boasts some good actors and a wonderful setting that is fraught with possibilities, it squanders both on a tired story of ghosts looking for revenge, which completely ignores the real facts of the Winchester House. A couple jump scares accompanied by sudden music stings work to a degree, but there is no genuine feeling of suspense generated by the script, no growing sense of escalating dread. Instead we get acceptable performances and some nice looking sets as the actors go through their paces to little effect.
It's not a terrible film, but one which fails to raise the hackles and which you will quickly forget after leaving the theater.
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