Helen Mirren Adds Class To Haunted House Spooker ‘Winchester’

Sorry, it’s not about the pub in ‘Shaun of the Dead’. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

Winchester (PG13)

Starring Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Nook

Directed by The Spierig Brothers

This is not just another haunted house movie — it’s a haunted house movie starring Dame Helen Mirren. And it’s a pretty good one, more The Conjuring than Insidious: The Last Key (ughhh). 

The Oscar-feted dowager, in her first horror flick, plays Sarah Winchester, the widow and heir of gun tycoon William Wirt Winchester, who believes she’s being tormented by the souls of the people killed by Winchester rifles. 

Thus begins her obsession with turning her San Jose Victorian mansion into an asylum for vengeful spooks. Jason Clarke is the troubled shrink hired by concerned shareholders to decide if it’s Mrs Winchester who should be in an asylum. 

winchester mansion set
Not Airbnb-worthy: The Winchester mansion, partly recreated for the movie in Melbourne, and the real one (inset) in San Jose, California, where it’s a popular tourist spot.

Directed by Peter and Michael Spierig, the Aussie siblings behind the mind-fryin’ time-travel thriller Predestination and last year’s shriek-fest Jigsaw, Winchester is an effective old-fashioned heart-pounder that knows how to spook audiences even when they can see the familiar boo-moments coming. 

While Mirren gives the movie class and gravitas, it’s the confusing labyrinth of a supernatural hub her character created that steals the spotlight: Once the houselights are down, you can almost feel the dread and menace oozing out of the screen. Brrr... Have fun watching this after sunset. (***1/2)

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