(directors/writers: Michael & Peter Spierig; screenwriter: Tom Vaughan; cinematographer: Ben Nott; editor: Matt Villa; music: Peter Spierig; cast: Helen Mirren (Sarah Winchester), Sarah Snook(Marion Marriott), Jason Clarke (Dr. Eric Price), Emm Wiseman (Nancy), Eamon Farren (Ben Block), Finn Scicluna-O’Prey (Henry Marriott), Laura Brent (Ruby Price); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tim McGahan, Brett Tomberlin; CBS Films; 2018)

Strange but dull Gothic ghost story inspired by real events.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The born in Germany but Australian-based identical twin brothers Michael & Peter Spierig (“Jigsaw”/”Predestination”) are the directors of this strange but dull Gothic ghost story inspired by real events, that plays loosely with the facts.The brothers also wrote the screenplay with Tom Vaughan. It focuses on the widowed Sarah Lockwood Winchester (Helen Mirren), born in 1864 and died in 1922, who inherited a fortune from her husband, William, whose family founded the Winchester Repeating Arms in New Haven, Connecticut. The ghost story film lacks suspense and entertains mostly with unintentional laughs. Winchester is set in 1906, where Sarah lives in a haunted 7-story Victorian mansion in San Jose, California, that is referred to as the “Mystery House,” with her niece, Marian (Sarah Snook), and Marian’s young son, Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey), who is cursed by the spirits in the house. The vast mansion remains today as a tourist attraction. It is haunted by spirits that the guilt-ridden Sarah believes inhabit the house because they were killed by the family’s weapons. To house all the ghosts present the widow builds additional rooms and keeps the house under construction until her death. A big deal is made of the ghost that’s the angriest, the spirit of a Southerner named Benjamin Block (Eamon Farren), whose Confederate Army brothers were killed in the Civil War by Union soldiers armed with Winchester rifles. Since the widow owns most of the company, the ones who own the other shares have the company’s Board hire the corrupt drug addict San Francisco psychiatrist Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) to rig her mental evaluation that sends her to the loony bin and gives them control of the company. This Price dude is an invented character, who makes the true story seem bogus. The Spierigs keep up the bloodless horror narrative by giving us too many PG-13 haunted-house clichés and jump- scares that have long ago failed to pass the giggle test. In the end, it leaves us with an empty feeling. The disappointing historical horror pic wastes the talents of gifted actors such as Mirren and Clarke with its disjointed narrative.