Winchester Reviewed by Joseph Hoshino

The Premise
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.

The Review
Haunted house films have often stirred up quite a buzz for horror fans, yet scepticism might be fair for this one being another Spierig Brothers directed project coming so soon after last year’s poorly received Jigsaw.

What Winchester lacks is mostly within the story. Some scenes are nicely paced in establishing what needs to be while others are rushed and escalate perhaps too quickly. Here we have ourselves the overly familiar premise of a victim who’s best help lies in the hands of someone who simply isn’t buying it, a story here that hasn’t really been twisted much to change the game. To be fair, it leeches off the real life story of Sarah Winchester, but with artistic liberties already being taken to the level they’re at, maybe there could have been other things done to help it stand out some more.

Despite some flaws with the overall storyline, Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke do a wonderful job of carrying everything through to the end with some interesting play between themselves and others in the film.

Visually, especially in terms of the San Jose Mansion, everything looks and feels great in the way that it’s meant to. With that ghostly, mysterious look about the place right from the get-go, you know you’re in for your fair share of jump scares. Known as the Winchester Mystery House that now serves as a cool and creepy tourist attraction, would I ever go and visit? Sure, if one day I happened to be passing through the area I think it would make some great shots for Instagram. This film’s opened my thoughts to that much at least.

The Verdict
Scarier than so many others for sure, but not quite among The Conjuring ranks that it hopes to live up to. Either way, it does some solid work to earn a place in the mystery/horror category.

The Trailer
The Info
Releases: 1st March 2018
Rating: M – Contains
Duration: 99 minutes
Genre:  Horror
Starring: Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O'Prey
Director: The Spierig Brothers
The Extras
The Winchester Mystery House is an actual mansion that is located in San Jose, California. It is believed to be haunted by the victims of the Winchester rifle. It is now a tourist attraction.

Very little of the filming took place in the actual mansion. The mansion's design in reality is extremely cramped, making filming very difficult. As such, most of the mansion's interior needed to be recreated on sound stages.

Sarah Winchester had severe, debilitating arthritis and had a series of short risers, only 3 or 4 inches high, in place of stairs as it was very painful for her to raise her foot more than a few inches.

The promotional image for the film of Helen Mirren sitting in the carriage in mourning clothes mirrors the only known photograph of the reclusive Sarah Winchester on the estate, which is seen on the tour of the mansion in San Jose, California.

Sarah Winchester constantly built, and rebuilt the house for twenty years. The Winchester house has windows and doors in the floor, doors that open into walls or nothing, and stairs to nothing or into the ceiling.

The first company Oliver Winchester (Sarah's father-in-law) owned was a men's shirt company (Winchester & Company) with his twin brother Samuel. In the 1860s, Winchester invested in Volcanic Repeating Arms Company that produced a revolver designed by Horace Smith & Daniel Wesson (yes, Smith & Wesson). When the company went bankrupt, he bought the company out and cleared the debt of $57,000.

"Ghost Dance," the 45th and last issue from Saga of the Swamp Thing (February 1986), written by Alan Moore, was inspired, like this film, by the Sarah Winchester's story about the house haunted by the ghosts of all the people who were slaughtered by her husband's family's gun.