Directed by: The Spierig Brothers
Written by: Tom Vaughan and The Spierig Brothers
Produced by: Tim McGahan, Brett Tomberlin
Starring: Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Jason Clarke, Angus Sampson, Eamon Farren.
Inspired by true events at the most haunted house in history.
Based on the true story of widower, Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), Winchester explores the haunting of a many-roomed house, seven stories high, comprising 500 rooms and stairs that lead to no-where: built, torn-down, to be built again; all orchestrated by the designs of the widower.
It’s enough to question her sanity.
Sarah communes with the dead to make their spirits grow stronger in the rooms she builds, under their instruction; through her visions; through her remorse – to then release them.
Many have died from the firing of a Winchester – the instrument of death the source of her fortune. And the source of her guilt.
Being the majority holder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, (and a multi-millionaire) the company employs a psychiatrist to assess Sarah’s mental capacity in the view of taking control of her share in the company.
A request agreed upon by Sarah’s niece Marion (Sarah Snook) but only if the psychiatrist conducting the assessment is Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke).
After Marion’s husband dies suddenly, she moves in with her aunt with her 8-year-old son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey) – an indication in Sarah’s mind that a curse is spreading through the family.
Dr. Price is also a grieving widow, addicted to Laudanum, amongst other substances; anything to numb the pain – and out of desperation and financial difficulty takes the job. Only to question his own mind when he witnesses the spirits inhabiting this strange house.
All the elements of an interesting story but I didn’t find the film to be a poignant one.
The suspense was weak, left to fall flat off cliff hangers that felt more like an accidental step.
And the over-editing of characters such as builder, John Hansen (Angus Sampson), to the extent of what sounded like dubbing over what was once comic, to be diluted to suit the tone of the film added to the quiet and dry dead like the musty smell in old houses.
All old houses have a presence, particularly those inhabited by the grieving.
When Dr. Price enters the house it just adds another unstable element, throwing doubt on the truth of the story as Dr. Price is also a grieving man, self-medicating and taken from the depths of a sabbatical dedicated to a life of hedonism and clearly desiring anything but clarity: is it any wonder he sees ghosts too?
The flash of spectres was well spliced into the dark recesses of shadows and reflections of mirrors. But the build of suspense and meat of the story lacked substance so rather than inspiring belief in the supernatural, the film became more a story of a 19th century larrikin sobering up to insanity.