It’s 1906 in San Jose, California, and strange things are happening to little Henry Marriott (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey) at the Winchester mansion, where at night he goes sleepwalking in a trance, only to be awaken saying “They’re coming.” Over in San Francisco, psychologist Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is living life, high on drugs and surrounded by prostitutes. He’s approached by a Winchester employee who wants Eric to go to the Winchester house in San Jose and evaluate the gun company’s founder’s widow Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), who seems to be disturbed. Hopefully Eric can sign off on her insanity so someone else can be the head of the company. Eric isn’t interested, but when the man offers him twice his rate, he accepts. Eric arrives at the mansion and sees the house bustling with servants as well as construction crews who are constantly adding rooms to the house. Eric is greeted by Sarah’s niece (and Henry’s mother), Marian (Sarah Snook), who takes him to his room and gives him the rules, which he’ll undoubtedly break. In his room, Eric talks to a picture of his dead wife Ruby (Laura Brent), does drugs, and has some ghostly sightings. At dinner he finally meets Sarah, dressed in all black, and afterwards they begin their first session, where she lets him know she knows more than he thinks she does, especially about his background including guilt over his wife’s death. At night, Eric breaks the rules and goes exploring, seeing workers still building overnight, as well as Sarah frantically sketching. He saves a tranced Henry from falling off the roof. What a busy night! The next day Sarah explains everything, that her husband’s guns have claimed the lives of many people and the spirits have come back to haunt her house. She sketches the rooms they’ve died in, the builders build it, and then they lock them in with thirteen nails to the door. That certainly makes things easy for Eric to write his report on Sarah. However, with Henry’s possession getting worse and a ghost sighting, Eric starts to turn into a believer — but will he — along with Henry, Marian and Sarah — be alive to tell anyone about it?
Winchester is a fairly standard PG-13 horror movie. While based on the actual house, the events in the movie are fictitious and rather boring. The plot they go with is good — the anguish guns have caused in America — but when it comes to a horror movie, the scary elements count just as much as plot, and unfortunately the scares just aren’t there. There’s way too much reliance on jump scares, which gets frustrating as the movie goes on. In trying to be realistic (at least for a horror movie) the writers limited themselves and it shows as there are too few suspenseful sequences. Not to mention there’s no humor or anything to keep you entertained between the scattered jump scares. Helen Mirren is fine as Sarah Winchester, but the script doesn’t give her much to work with, and Jason Clark is less annoying compare to his last few movies. I think the most disappointing thing about this movie is that it becomes a standard haunted house movie when the house is so unique. Too bad the plot didn’t match the location. It’s worth renting down the road if you’re interested, otherwise don’t feel bad missing this one.