Winchester is one of those “inspired by true events” horror movies that is probably embellished beyond recognition, which is fine and good if the film succeeds in giving us the heebie-jeebies.
This fantasy/horror picture is set in 1906 San Francisco, and heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) believes that her massive 160 room mansion is haunted by those killed by Winchester made firearms. Troubled and self-medicating psychiatrist Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is dispatched to the mansion by the lawyers of the arms company to decide if Sarah, because of her claims of seeing ghosts, is mentally stable.
So, is the place truly haunted or is Sarah batshit crazy? From the get-go, the filmmakers convey absolutely no doubt that angry spirits are haunting the hell out of the place. The directors and co-writers of the film, Michael and Peter Spierig, curiously don't add that nugget of uncertainty to the proceedings to throw off the audience. It's vengeful ghosts. Period. But what's the fun in that? Toy with us. Let us not be sure as to what is going on.
Winchester has good actors and top production value (Because the real mansion is cramped, much of the interior was recreated on soundstages.), so it had the potential of being a psychologically scary and moody haunted house thriller like The Legend of Hell House (1973) or even The Haunting (1963). Instead, The Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers, Undead) are content with giving us cheap jump scares, most of which are pretty mild.