Located in San Jose, California lies the most haunted house in the United States: The Winchester Mystery House. Once owned by firearmheiress Sarah Winchester, the house is not only marveled for its odd architecture and grandiose size but it is believed to be haunted by ghosts of those killed by the Winchester rifles.
Set in 1906, Winchester opens the door to this curious house, as a doctor (Jason Clarke) is summoned to examine Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), whose mental stability is in question. She appears to be descending into madness, incessantly building upon the house with no rational design. However, through some terrifying events, the truth is revealed that the house is a prison for vengeful ghosts, determined to make the Winchester family suffer as they did.
Despite the gothic beauty of the production design and an Academy Award-winning actress leading the film, Winchester is corny and predictable. The jump scares are textbook as far as haunted house movies go, leaving me yawning rather than screaming. Instead of focusing on weaving a scary story, the directors and writer, Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig, aimed their focus on highlighting a pro-gun control message. It felt too forced and terribly misfired.
Helen Mirren, a beyond talented master of her craft, did what she could with this role. She was eerily captivating and in all honesty, too good for this mediocre movie. It was almost like she was also trapped in the wild maze of the Winchester Mansion with us, and begging to get out.
In all honesty, the Winchester Mystery House is a fascinating landmark and tourist attraction with loads of interesting tales. It is disappointing that it was translated into a film so blandly.
Final Thoughts: Not even Helen Mirren can save you from the predictable and weakly crafted Winchester. The Winchester Mystery House deserves a better film than this disappointment.