How a film that’s set in the 1900s can be so relevant today is surprising; however, Winchester tries its hardest to make a point on gun violence.
While targeted as a horror, Winchester is supposedly based on the ‘true’ story of Sarah Winchester. Heiress to the Winchester gun fortune, Sarah (Helen Mirren) feels an immense amount of guilt for gun deaths and builds a rather extraordinary mansion. Standing seven storeys tall and containing hundreds of peculiar rooms, Sarah pays for 24 hour construction. No one asks any questions, not even when they’re instructed to bolt rooms shut with 13 nails, until the Board of the Winchester company hire Dr Eric Price (Jason Clarke) to assess her mental state.
Instead of finding the old woman crazy, Dr Price discovers she is reconstructing the rooms where people have died from gun violence, in a bizarre attempt to help the souls cross over into peace. But some more vengeful ghosts have other ideas; possessing Sarah’s young great-nephew to exact revenge.
What Mirren is doing in this B-grade horror flick is beyond me. Her talents are wasted; the role of Sarah Winchester is flimsy and rather pathetic.
Some of the shots are really quite lovely; particularly the opening scene, but as the story develops it gets more and more ridiculous. I draw the line at Mirren sternly telling the evil ghosts to “return to their rooms” – which they obey.
Jointly funded by Screen Australia and Screen Victoria, with parts filmed in Melbourne, it’s a decent flick to have Australia attached to (despite being an entirely American ‘true’ story), but it misses the mark as far as story goes.