Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig and starring Helen Mirren, Winchester is the latest gothic horror offering from the people who brought you, amongst other things, the hugely underrated 2009 film Predestination, an adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s cult sci-fi novel All You Zombies. However, anyone expecting more of the same from the hard working duo’s latest outing would be sorely let down by this deeply muddled and frankly baffling production, which simply fails to deliver on an otherwise great premise.

Set sometime around the turn of the last century, Winchester opens with a laughably predictable “based on a true story” pre-credit title and carries on much in the same fashion with a crash, a bang, and jump-scare until its inevitable denouement, which couldn’t come soon enough.

Helen Mirren is Sarah Winchester, the stern matriarch at the head of the Winchester gun company. Locked in a battle of wills against the rest of the firm’s shareholders, the widow must prove that she is of sane mind if she is to be allowed to continue ruling over the multi-million Dollar company. To prove that the old woman is clearly losing her mind, the rest of the shareholders enlist the help of Eric Price (Jason Clarke), a level headed, yet deeply troubled, drug addled young doctor to establish the old woman’s sanity and therefore safeguard the future of the arms dealership.

winchester movire poster

Arriving at the grand old Winchester home on the outskirts of San Francisco, the doctor is met by Mrs Winchester’s young attractive widowed niece Marion (Sarah Snooks), and her young son who appears to have been possessed by an evil presence. Price soon finds out that all is not well with the house or its owner. As around the clock renovations take place, the house seems to be under constant construction at the behest of the clearly disturbed old woman. However, things start to take a turn for the sinister when the usually rational doctor also starts seeing things that aren’t there. To put the whole thing to rest and leave having done his job to the best of his abilities, Price must find out if whatever is happening is all in own head, or whether an evil presence has really taken hold of everyone around him.

Centring most of the story around a haunted house scenario, The Spierig brothers excel as ever in the directing stakes, but are sadly let down by a fairly pedestrian screenplay which is as confused and as highly convoluted as its plot. Mirren, although usually excellent in almost everything, offers not an altogether believable American accent, while Jason Clarke is left in a permanent state of bewilderment, and who can blame him, at the cringeworthy dialogue and the frankly ridiculous twist which anyone with half a brain could have seen coming a mile off. All in all a highly disappointing film from a team which is usually capable of so much more.