Ensconced in her sprawling San Jose, California mansion, eccentric firearm heiress Sarah Winchester (Dame Helen Mirren) believes she is haunted by the souls of people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle.
Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land fifty miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester (Dame 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 an outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman's madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece Marion (Sarah Snook), nor for the brilliant Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke), who she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying amongst them have a score to settle with the Winchesters.
Sarah Winchester and her house are given their own chapter discussion in "Ghostland: an American history in haunted places" written by Colin Dickey in 2016. Historically, Sarah Winchester was living in a time that was uncommon and unusual for women to pursue architecture. She was never licensed. Instead, she practiced and experimented on her own house. When one project would prove to not work out or she would lose interest, a new project would be started. Even the projects that were completed will have an off-kilter appearance due to space constraints. It is easier to continue building and expanding the size of various parts of the house and within the house than to tear it out to start over. See more »
In 1906 Dr. Price presents his "house guest" with a 1917 two dollar bill. See more »
This movie isn't bad but it doesn't seem to quite deliver on it's setup. With a few tweaks this could've been a very successful slow burn, Gothic 'ghost' story in the manner of 'The Innocents' and 'The Haunting". What those movies did was create a film with all the trappings of supernatural horror without ever letting you know whether the supernatural element is real. 'Winchester' teases with this concept through most of the movie and then goes full blown, over the top, Hollywood-Ghost-Spooktacular at the end.
The cinematography is very atmospheric. The acting is good and there's a few scary moments. A marked over-reliance on jump scares got a little tedious. I really don't think they took as much advantage of the location as they could've. They might've tried some disembodied Steadicam shots with scary music to set the mood. We needed to see more of the 'Mystery House'. We needed to feel the craziness of it. It should've felt claustrophobic and all consuming. People should've got lost in it. Well, they don't and we feel everybody could leave anytime they felt like it.
The portrayal of Sarah Winchester as the tortured, guilt ridden ghost appeaser falls short, as well. This is a woman who lost a child and husband and believes she's cursed but they don't really bring that performance out and I'm sure they could've. I mean you've got Helen F-ing Miren for cripes sake. Don't you think she could knock that out of the park?
This is one of times when I have to put it all on the director. I think this screenplay probably read very well. The thing that consistently seems to bog it down is bad decisions on where to take it. For what it was, it was entertaining. I just don't think it fulfilled it's potential.
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