Sarah Winchester (Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren) was more than just an
heiress of an
enormous fortune and majority shareholder of the company that made it. She was
also the architect
of a macabre plan to turn an 8-room San Jose, California farmhouse into a
sprawling, labyrinth of
inexplicable spectral chambers...
An exorbitant work in progress - built, torn down, built again. A non-stop
year-round construction, its
interior lavishly dressed in the finest decor of the day, Sarah's folly was
beyond anyone's comprehension.
And it was built for one purpose: To be haunted. The master plan: To recreate
the realms where lives were
claimed by a Winchester rifle. ...It's in the walls...
Built by the dead, but for Sarah, the dead would keep it.
The bereaved widow was building it to confront the unspeakable: Victim or
villain, hundreds of vengeful
spirits, some good and some bad, were imprisoned in this asylum and Sarah was
And the most terrifying of all had one pursuit - for Sarah's own to meet their
fate. ...It's in the air...
"There's a lot of mythology around Sarah Winchester," muses Mirren. "In her
lifetime there was a legend,
a mythology that grew around her and the creation of this house. This house was
built at a time where
there was nothing around. Now it's in the middle of San Jose's main street - a
shopping area. But at that
time, it was just empty farmland and in the middle of it was this extraordinary
construction, bit by bit
being built by this widow who would always wear black and who no one in the
local town would ever
see. She was private, always in her house. You can understand why a mythology
started building about
her as the house became more extraordinary, more complicated, bigger and bigger.
This mythology has
lasted over the years. It's very difficult to extricate the truth about her from
"With our film, there's a span between truth and mythology. I researched the
truth of her but it was very
hard to get to that truth. Many different people had different ideas about her.
But you try to go to the
source, to the people who worked with her, to sense what she was like. I believe
she was a woman
with great empathy, deep feelings (for others). At the same time the fortune
that she spent on building
this house came from the Winchester rifle fortune. So there is an incredible
contradiction between the
character of the woman and the source of her income," Mirren clarifies.
"It is fascinating. Whether that is the truth of Sarah or not, no one will
ever know. There are no diaries.
Only second-hand knowledge."
For horror maestros Peter and Michael Spierig (Jigsaw, Predestination),
seizing an opportunity to write
and direct a supernatural thriller inspired by a true story weirder than
anything they had ever imagined -
comes along once in a lifetime. What the Australian twin brothers envisioned is
a disturbing testament to
a historical mystery that can never be fully explained about a creator as
confounding as her creation.
More than just a name, WINCHESTER is a formidable placeholder in time.
And Sarah Lockwood Pardee, an outsider who married the Winchester Repeating
Rifle inventor, taking
his name, would become a 50-percent shareholder of the company and heir to a
vast amount of money as
his widow. Her $20 million estate then would be equal to nearly half a billion
As legend has it, Sarah would meet with a Boston medium after the death of
her husband and infant
daughter Annie, who would advise her to leave her native Connecticut, head west
and begin building a
house that would serve as an elaborate tomb of atonement for those who had
fallen from the rifle. Sarah
alone would stand as architect and warden of this charnel house of spirits, a
hellish portal for any living
Winchester targeted by their wrath. She was to never stop building if she hoped
to thwart retribution
against her or any she loved.
As Mirren notes, in Sarah's time "there was a lot of experimentation and new
thinking, the era of Alistair
Crowley on the dark side and the Rosicrucians on the light side.
"There was a spiritual search going on and I think Sarah was a part of that,"
Mirren adds. "This was an
extraordinary woman. She was very into spiritual development and spiritual
things in general.
"She was actually kind of trained as an architect. She had a huge interest in
architecture and design before
she got married. It was an era of building amazing, complicated palaces. But the
purpose of her building
was always to expiate souls."
This was the way she found to deal with "the responsibility of so many deaths
(because) she was living
off of them."
In the film, to protect her life and the two people she loves most, her niece
Marion (Sarah Snook) and
Marion's 8-year-old son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O'Prey), Sarah has but one choice -
to meet the dead at
ground zero and recreate their whispered renderings of where they met their end.
But the Winchester board fears it has a grieving nut case holding the
company's purse strings. It exercises
its right to have her examined, hoping she will be proved insane. But Sarah
chooses the examiner...
Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) of San Francisco is the only option.
"Do you believe in ghosts Doctor?"
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