Dame Helen Mirren is well known for many roles, but as an actress she does seem to have a particular type. The Oscar winner tends to play royalty (she’s played both Queens Elizabeth, after all) or other strong British women such as the troubled DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect.
So her latest big screen role – as tortured American heiress Sarah Winchester in the upcoming horror movie Winchster: The House That Ghosts Built – is generally something of a departure from type for her. (Though, probably not as much as you might think.)
Based on a true story, Winchester is not just a terrifying ghost story (though it will doubtless feature scares aplenty), but a sad tale of a woman tormented by guilt and grief.
Sarah Winchester was the wife of William Wirt Winchester, of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, the makers of the Winchester rifle. When her husband died in 1881, he left her over $20 million dollars (the equivalent to roughly $496,344,828 today) and a 50% share in the company.
However, Sarah felt that her family was cursed, and worried that she would subsequently be plagued by the spirits of everyone who’d ever been killed by a Winchester rifle. (Given that the Civil War took place a scant 20 years previously, let’s just say that there was the potential for a lot of restless spirits out there.) On the advice of a medium – or so the story goes, anyway – Sarah moved West, and began building a house in northern California that she believed would contain them. Construction on this dwelling would continue virtually nonstop for the next 38 years until her death in 1922. The result was a frequently nonsensical dwelling full of architectural oddities that had seven floors and hundreds of rooms. Ostensibly, all of this was meant to somehow trick the ghosts, or simply to extend the construction process, as Winchester believed the building on her house could never stop.
Watch the trailer for WINCHESTER: The House That Ghosts Built for yourselves below. (Just maybe leave the lights on.)
The terrifying residence featured in this film is actually a real place, located in San Jose, California. Now known as the Winchester Mystery House, you can still visit it and see all its uber-creepy features – dead-end passageways, staircases to nowhere, windows that look into other rooms in the building – for yourself.
It’s long been rumored to be one of the most haunted places in America, if not the world. So it’s really only remarkable that no one has managed to make a movie about it before now. The involvement of Mirren seems to suggest that Winchester will be something more than your typical horror film filled with jump scares. Here’s hoping anyway. It’s a wild story that deserves a good telling, and Mirren is certainly an actress that can certainly do justice to this tortured saga.
The film will hit theaters in February, 2018.
Does this seem like the kind of movie you’d expect from Dame Helen? Let’s discuss.