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Movie review

Helen Mirren stars in the supernatural thriller, "Winchester."

Prior to a screening of “Winchester,” a ghost story whose protagonist comes down on the pro-gun control side of the firearms violence debate, a smattering of multiplex attendees and I watched a trailer for the new “Death Wish” (opening March 2).

Bruce Willis plays a heroically murderous vigilante who takes the law into his own hands. It’s an old story. Billions have been made on it.

I suspect “Winchester” will be a tough sell up against that old story, and all it exemplifies in this gun-crazy land we call home.

Ideology aside: “Winchester” isn’t very good.

There really is a Winchester mystery house located in San Jose, Calif., an elaborate, 160-room ode to grief-stricken paranoia. Sarah Winchester believed the spirits of those killed by her late husband’s popular weapons needed a place to reside.

She inherited millions when her husband died, and her grief compounded after the subsequent death of their infant daughter.

Some say the mansion remains haunted, though perhaps only by tourists: Today you can pay $39 ($29, ages 6-12) to tour the place. Also you can dine on-site at Sarah’s Cafe.

Now there’s “Winchester,” the movie, starring Helen Mirren as Sarah, and co-starring Jason Clarke as the similarly grief-addled San Francisco doctor hired by the Winchester company (this is all made up; it’s a movie!) to assess Sarah’s mental stability and purge himself of his own supernatural hassles.

Much of “Winchester” relies on Clarke, speaking in low tones, conferring with Mirren, also speaking in low tones, in one of the Winchester mansion’s many confining and plushly furnished settings.

The directors are the Spierig brothers, Peter and Michael, who made “Daybreakers,” “Predestination” and the recent, derided “Jigsaw.”

“Winchester” pauses now and then for Mirren’s Sarah to expound on the grim slaughter that created her late husband’s fortune.

You may or may not like the way this movie would vote, if it could. But as a period ghost story, it’s pretty pallid.


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