Sarah Winchester really was heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, and she really did spend her money building a mad warren of a mansion outside San Francisco. Legend says she believed she was haunted by the tortured souls of those who were killed by Winchester rifles, and her nearly unnavigable house was intended to appease or confuse those spirits. That’s what Australian filmmaker brothers Michael and Peter Spierig had to work with. Did they craft a sublime psychological thriller full of subtleties and ambiguities about guilt and grief? Did they wrest a pulpy gothic reckoning with America’s gun culture out of a terrifying tale of the damage guns do? Nope. Winchester is unwilling to take any tack other than straight-up haunted-house story, and it can’t even do that well; the few tedious jump scares are telegraphed a mile out. The nasty new spirit that has just arrived—according to Mrs. Winchester (a wasted Helen Mirren)—is just a standard cinematic boogeyman. There’s no sense of the weird geography of the house, and not even the tiniest hint that guns are instruments of horror in this horror movie about guns.
Director: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Producer: Tim McGahan, Brett Tomberlin, Tobin Armbrust, Benedict Carver, Daniel Diamond, Brian Gilbert, Antonia Lianos, Simon Oakes, Marc Schipper and Andrew Trapani
Cast: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Angus Sampson, Laura Brent, Tyler Coppin, Eamon Farren, Thor Carlsson, Emm Wiseman and Finn Scicluna-O'Prey