Winchester is an American-Australian production, directed by the Australian Spierig brothers. The film is based on the real-life events of Sarah Winchester and the Winchester Mystery House—a Queen Anne style mansion that now serves as a Californian historical landmark and tourist attraction.
Sarah Winchester (played here by Helen Mirren) was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company—a prominent maker of American firearms. She seemingly built her San Jose mansion without any clear plans or pattern, haphazardly adding rooms as she went. Construction crews worked around the clock to meet Mrs Winchester’s demands, until her death in 1922, at which point the mansion stood at seven stories high.
The mansion was said to have been haunted by the ghosts of those killed by the rifles the Winchester’s made. In Winchester, Sarah communicates with those that have passed on; the ghosts tell her where they were shot and in turn she builds each of them a room to mirror the one they died in, in order to help them move on from their traumatic deaths. It is this relationship between Sarah and the ghosts that produced the nickname, “the house that spirits built”.
It is this connection to real-life events that makes Winchester so much more compelling to watch than your average jump-scare flick. I feel as though any horror movie with some semblance of connection to the real world will always seem slightly more terrifying because it gives the viewer a sense that the events depicted on screen are actually possible. Knowing that the Winchester Mystery House actually exists, and events similar to those depicted on screen occurred in that mansion, makes it even creepier.
So creepy in fact, that the second I saw “inspired by actual events”, the thought, oh god, what have I gotten myself into, immediately ran through my head. I even considered leaving the cute boy I was with to watch the film all by himself, and let him fill me in on the details afterwards.
Fortunately for you, my company refused to let me leave the cinema. In fact, every time a jump scare was coming, he would jolt me to create a freaking terrifying 4D experience. Over the course of the movie I learnt to close my eyes when I could sense a scary bit coming—to lessen the blow. Needless to say, this inability to watch Winchester in its entirety left me a few scenes short of a good synopsis.
In all honesty though, Winchester was certainly not the scariest film I’ve had the “pleasure” of watching; in fact, it didn’t even come close. But its connection to American history and real-life events, along with an epic set design, camerawork and brilliant acting by the entire cast, really made the movie worth the watch. So, if you’re at all interested in real-life supernatural events, American history or Australian film, I would truly recommend that you check Winchester out today.