Even the most trivial gothic thriller can be “original,” and “Winchester” qualifies: Set in 1906, it’s the first (and probably the last) ghost story to be haunted by the spirit of gun control. Helen Mirren, taking a paycheck role but incapable of slumming (or, at least, incapable of doing so without giving it her all), plays the real-life historical character Sarah Winchester, the turn-of-the-century California widow whose late husband, William Wirt Winchester, left her a 50 percent stake in the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. Mirren, her silver hair swirled into a Victorian bun, a black crepe dress buttoned up to her neck, speaks in an American accent, with a voice of calmly possessed clarity. Sarah sees ghosts everywhere, but she isn’t scared of them. She wants to help them. They’re the spirits of people killed by those dastardly rifles her husband invented.
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