Rated: PG-13
Release Date: 02/02/2018
Production Company: Lionsgate/CBS Films

Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke and Sarah Snook.

Director: Michael and Peter Spierig. Producers: Yvonne Collins, Tim McGahan, Brett Tomberlin. Executive Producers: Tobin Armbrust, Benedict Carver, Daniel Diamond, Brian J. Gilbert, Antonia Lianos, Simon Oakes, Marc Schipper and Andrew Trapani. Screenwriters: Michael and Peter Spierig. Cinematography: Ben Nott.
Lana K. Wilson-Combs

As a native Californian I’ve been to almost every tourist destination in the Golden State except for the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose.

Over the years I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see the place. The car club I belong to takes regular trips there. I’ve also received tickets from various organizations, but I just never got around to going.

However, after watching the new movie “Winchester” starring Helen Mirren (“The Fate of the Furious”) and Jason Clarke (“Mudbound”), my interest in the “haunted” mansion has piqued.

It’s a safe bet with the release of the movie that many others now will also be interested and getting tickets could be a tall order.

And since the majority of “Winchester” was filmed in San Jose, aka the "Capital of Silicon Valley, the city’s profile will likely be raised even more.

In fact, according to a recent article in SFGate, there are parties scheduled Feb. 2 through Feb. 3 to celebrate the film’s opening. For $49 guests will be treated to appetizers/drinks, take a tour of the house--not all 161 rooms--and see some of the Victorian costumes that Mirren wore in the movie.

In “Winchester,” Mirren stars as the real-life Sarah Winchester, the 19th Century heiress who amassed a fortune after the death of her husband, William Wirt Winchester in 1881. Her wealth, which included a 50 percent holding in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, made Sarah Winchester one of the wealthiest women in the world at the time.

Apparently, all that money and the guilt from selling “killing machines” did a number on Sarah and seemed to slowly drive her crazy. Or so the story goes.

“Winchester,” from writers/directors Michael and Peter Spierig, (“Jigsaw”) plays into the legendary, tall tale about Sarah. She lived in New Haven, Conn. before moving to San Jose, Calif.

She believed her family—her infant daughter died too--was cursed by the spirits of all the people who had been killed by Winchester rifles.

Not only does Sarah see dead people, they’re somehow able to communicate with her and believe me, the conversations aren’t nice. These evil spirits even tell her that if she ever stopped building on the new mansion she would suffer the same fate as her husband and young daughter.

Sarah took the advice of the ghosts and hired contractors around the clock to work on the 24,000-square foot estate which has approximately 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors and 40 staircases.

These ghosts preyed hardest on Sarah’s young nephew, Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, TV’s “Rosehaven”). Their "presence" left Henry’s mother Marion Marriott (Sarah Snook, “Steve Jobs” and TV’s “The Glass Castle”) with little choice than to go along with the Winchester Repeating Arms Company’s decision to hire Dr. Eric Price, (Clarke), a San Francisco psychotherapist, to see if Sarah was mentally capable of running the business.

Ironically, Dr. Price has some personal demons of his own to shake off.
When Dr. Price arrives, he’s amazed by the seven stories tall mansion and the bizarre rooms, odd staircases and various entry ways. When things start going bump in the night and flying around in the mansion right before his eyes, well he gets with the program fast.

“Winchester” has a few genuine scares, notably when little Henry becomes possessed and grabs a rifle and starts shooting at Sarah. Other moments like the scene of a long, decrepit finger coming out of a wall and an empty rocking chair rocking are standard horror bits that we’ve seen many times before.

Still, Mirren and Clarke, who you wouldn’t expect to be in a movie like this, are convincing enough in "Winchester" to make it work despite its shortcomings.

That the movie is also based on true events only adds to the intrigue of this creepy and vengeful ghost story.

Editor’s Note: For more information regarding the Winchester Mansion premiere events log on to

Be sure to catch my movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:40 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.

Check Out This Trailer For "WINCHESTER"

Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.


Brian's Song Title: Brian's Song
Year Released: 1971
Running Time: 90
Production Company: Screen Gems (Sony)
Director: Buzz Kulik
Director of Photography: Joseph F. Biroc
Screenwriter: Gale Sayers, Al Silverman and William Blinn
Author: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: This Review Reprinted In Honor Of Movie Critic Bill Gibron--May 14, 1961--May 11, 2018. Pictured Top Left.

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