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Stars: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Eamon Farren, Angus Sampson, Finn Scicluna O'Prey, Laura Brent

Director: The Spierig Brothers

Mirren, in her first outright horror film, set in California but made almost entirely in Australia, plays Sarah Winchester, co-owner of the Winchester Repeating Rifle Company, and sole owner of what still stands today as 'the most haunted house in America'.

Built to Mrs Winchester's instructions, the sprawling, single-storey construction has nearly 100 rooms, many of them believed by the guilt-ridden dowager to be the homes of the ghosts of those killed by her company's firearms.

Right now, it's 1906, and dissolute doctor Eric Price (Clarke), himself haunted by the death (from a Winchester) of his wife Ruby (Brent), is summoned by the Winchester board of directors to determine whether Sarah is still in her right mind.

So far, so historical. But then the good doctor begins to see the vengeful ghosts for himself, unlike Sarah's live-in niece (Snook), whose own son Henry (O'Prey) seems to have been possessed by the most malevolent of the house's many spirits.

Lots of demonic action follows, with some good jump scares, and some giggles too, especially when Mirren firmly commands the spirits to 'get back in your rooms!' (to which they have previously been confined by 13-nail boards).

Horror fans could do worse, and the dialogue is serviceable enough given the scenario. But was the phrase 'state of the art' really around as early as 1906?

David Quinlan

Australia/USA 2018. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour (unspecified).
100 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Jan 2018