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‘Winchester’ Review: Real-Life Ghost Story Haunted By Sheer God-Awfulness

Dame Helen Mirren plays host to some angry spirits – and finds herself in the middle of a truly horrible horror-film disaster

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'Winchester' tells the story of the heiress who constructed a haunted house – and strands Helen Mirren in a truly god-awful horror movie. Our review.

Ben King

It shouldn’t happen to anyone, much less a Dame
– not a movie of such barreling awfulness as Winchester, which strands the
great Helen Mirren in a gothic house of cards that collapses on actors and
audiences alike. Dame Helen plays
heiress Sarah Lockwood Winchester, a widow who inherited a bundle from her husband William, whose family
founded the world-famous Winchester
rifle company. Set in 1906, the film – jointly written and directed by those
Aussie twins Michael and Peter Spierig, the one who recently inflicted the Saw sequel Jigsaw on paying
customers – purports to be “inspired by actual events.” Ha! A paycheck seems the
only real inspiration in a dud that’s about as truthful as a Trump tweet.

Which is too bad, because the nutjob premise of the film
could have (and frankly, should have) yielded more than unintentional laughs. Sarah lives in San Jose, California, in a
Victorian mansion that the neighbors call the “Mystery House.” The place, which tourists still visit
today, is haunted by spirits that Sarah
believes have been killed by shooters of the family’s firearms. She feels real
guilty about that – so naturally, as more ghosts show up she keeps building new rooms to
house them. A few of them are not so
friendly; it requires 13 nails to hold up
vengeful spirits in their rooms. Such generosity toward the undead doesn’t
sit well with the suits that run her husband’s company, of course That’s why they send in
Dr. Eric Price (a wasted Jason Clarke), an opiate junkie whose psychiatric
evaluation is meant to send the widow off to the cuckoo’s nest. Then things
start going bump in the night. 

No shock there … or anywhere else in this smothering blanket
of cinematic bland. The Spierigs shamelessly pile on haunted-house clichés that lost their juice decades ago. Here’s
a film so deadly dull that even Mirren can’t keep you awake. In lieu of suspense or tension, what we have instead is a fright-free fiasco that earnestly preaches
gun control. Now that’s a true ticket to hell. 

In This Article: Helen Mirren, Horror

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