Sarah Winchester (Dame Helen Mirren) is the heiress to the Winchester repeating firearms company. After the death of her husband and child she became more and more reclusive, believing herself to be haunted by the spirits of people killed by her company's products. She employs construction crews around the clock constantly changing and developing her house into a mysterious manor full of twists and turns and doors which lead to nowhere. A house which was later to be referred to as the Winchester Mystery House.
Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is a doctor whom the management of the Winchester company employ to declare Winchester unfit to own controlling shares in the organisation. While Price is suffering from him own troubles, and a penchant for laudanum, he decides to give Winchester a fair assessment, staying with her for a week and letting her tell her story.
The film delivers one or two effective jump scares, and a bounty of beautiful set designs. It boasts a talented cast, who deliver a perfectly acceptable performance, and it tells the tale of one of the most intriguing buildings in existence. However, it seems that this film has been universally panned. Could it be that primarily American audiences are too immature to appreciate a film that is at its core (and not exactly subtly) anti-gun? Or is it something else? I'd like to believe that there is more to horror viewers than their personal politics, so I'm going to focus on areas where I felt the film was lacking.
Despite the intricate scenery of the film (including some shots of the actual house) and a few well executed jump scares there was very few scary moments after the halfway mark. After the big reveal of the nature of the more deadly of spirits lurking around the house, the film began to be a little too liberal about showing us all. A little more mystery in the Mystery House may have kept viewers more on-side.
Price's backstory added a somewhat unnecessary link into the plot which I felt was more heavily focused on than our main story. Unlike the "Annabelle" side plot of "The Conjuring" which acted as a thrilling sidebar to develop the characters, Price's story becomes more involved than Winchester's. Although I did enjoy his story and his period drug abuse to an extent, it felt almost as if our titular character's story was of lesser concern.
All in all, the film suffered from being both slow and showing too much to the point where all tension was lost.
[Image: Bullitt Entertainment]