The ending of Winchester explained

Helmed by the duo behind 2017's Jigsaw, Michael and Peter Spierig's Winchester offers solid acting, some intriguing real-life tie-ins, and a few clever camera tricks — the mirror scene near the beginning of the film comes to mind. In addition to some interesting ideas about ghosts, there are enough left turns (and dead-end stairways, and hidden rooms, and…you get the idea) to leave some viewers scratching their heads by the time the credits roll. Here's a quick summary of the story, and an explanation of what it all meant. Spoilers ahead.

Monster house

After a short prologue, the story opens on Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke), a morphine addict with some relationship hangups who's called out to the estate of Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company fortune. See, Old Lady Winchester has been acting weird and building a big, creepy house, and the rest of the Winchester board of directors wants Price to assess her mental state in the hopes of booting her from the business.

Price goes to the house, interviews Sarah, lives through some jump scares, and blames all the ghosts he's seeing on his morphine addiction, until things get too real and he has no choice but to be the one person who can save everyone in the house. That's the movie — now let's take a look at that ending.

Unexpected friend

Throughout the movie, Dr. Price has an unexplained fixation on the widow Winchester's garden room, a big glass greenhouse attached to the house. He tries to get inside several times, only to find the doors nailed shut on each attempt. At one point, he sees a shadow pass through the locked greenhouse and tries frantically to see through the window. Since he's pretty nonchalant about the rest of the ghosts, his actions there seem a little weird. As it turns out, Price had good reason to be upset.

As the movie explains, each room is built to draw a ghost into the house. The doors are then nailed shut with 13 nails, trapping the ghost inside the room. Although the movie never overtly explains it, Price's obsession with the garden room stems from the fact that it's an exact copy of the place where his wife ended her own life. Which brings us to…

Rifle reenactment (part one)

After hearing the sounds of someone crying through the garden room communication pipe (if you've seen Winchester, you know exactly what we mean with that odd collection of words), Price rushes down and pries the nails off the garden room door. There, he comes face to face with his wife, who's been deceased for several years. Until this point, we've only known about his wife through a framed photograph and the fact that he was shot in the chest and died for three minutes, and it all had to do with her somehow.

What happens next seems like a basic horror movie fight with a ghost, but it's actually a reenactment of the way they both died, once upon a time. Distraught by Price's diagnosis that she's crazy, his wife tries to end it all by shooting herself with a (Winchester) rifle. When Price reaches in to pull the gun away, she accidentally shoots him in the chest. Now even more distraught, she goes through with her original plan and pulls the trigger with the barrel pressed under her chin.

That's why Price falls back, bleeding, then later has no blood on his jacket—they were going through the motions of what had already happened. In the epilogue, we see the garden room being dismantled, because confronting that moment brought peace to Pierce's wife and let her move on, or whatever ghosts do when they're done haunting things. But was that the last time we saw this go down? No, no it wasn't.

Rifle reenactment (part two)

It's no secret that Dr. Price is dealing with a lot of demons throughout the film. Some come from a bottle, others from the whole wife thing — and he spends a good deal of time exorcising those demons in the movie's final moments. The altercation with his former wife cleanses him in the same way that it cleanses her spirit, but Price isn't quite ready to move on with his life until he faces that moment and comes out on top, so to speak.

When Price runs into his wife's ghost, he gets shot — exactly the same way he was shot in real life. But later, while battling the big bad ghost of Ben Block, the same series of events plays out. Possessed by Block, Winchester is holding a rifle to her chin. Price leaps in to pull it away, and the gun goes off…and misses Price. The narrow escape symbolizes Price finally moving on from the memory of his wife and, presumably, the end of the self-destructive path he went down after that loss.

Helping hands

Most of the ghosts who come to Sarah Winchester are the good sort of ghosts. They want to be released. Her whole deal is showing these restless spirits that she's sorry for being a Winchester and, by default, being part of the company that manufactured the guns that shot them. As such, her house is filled with nailed-shut doors, because those ghosts want to find peace in a facsimile of the room where they died. It's…well, in a universe where ghosts exist, it's as good an explanation as any.

But why do all the ghosts who appear around Price seem to want to help him? They certainly look murdery and evil. Well, after Ben Block's ghost releases them all from their rooms, they come to Price because he's the only one who can defeat Ben once and for all, thereby letting them go back to their soul-searching, or whatever they're happily doing in those rooms. As Sarah Winchester explains, "This spirit has disrupted the balance of this house." What she means is that Ben's ghost is causing a ruckus, and it's pissing off the rest of the guests.

Supernatural ballistics

In the end, Price defeats Block's ghost by shooting him with the bullet he's been carrying around in his pocket — the same one that he was shot with back in the day, which he's had re-powdered and charged and engraved with a message that reminds him of his wife.

In a way, shooting Block with his special bullet acts as a form of symbolism — Price is finally free of the last chain anchoring him to the past. That's sweet and all, but symbolism can only go so far, and if you're of a more literal bent you might have been wondering…how the heck can you shoot a ghost with a bullet? We saw Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, so we know you can only get rid of a ghost through the power of love.

Well, once again, this goes back to wise old Mrs. Winchester, who said earlier in the movie that relics of death hold special power over ghosts. Since that bullet is the very definition of a relic of death — it literally killed Price, and then he kept it around as a keepsake — it's filled up with just the right kind of supernatural power to tear a hole through an ectoplasmic interloper. We weren't initially sure if there was some kind of anti-gun message running through this movie, but that climax put an end to that line of reasoning. Winchesters are apparently good for everything. Got a ghost? Buy a Winchester. Can't get the crumbs out of the toaster? Buy a Winchester.

Loose nails

By the time the credits roll, everybody's happy. The other woman who was occasionally on the screen is happy, and her nameless, forgettable son has been un-possessed. Dr. Price gives Sarah a clean bill of sanity, and she's ready to go back to her favorite hobby: being rich and building prisons for ghosts. It's a glorious moment. And then…cliffhanger! A close-up shows a bunch of nails (13, we're guessing) sliding out of a door barrier, signaling that another ghost is free. Gee, maybe your ghost-proofing system isn't so foolproof after all, Sarah. What this part of the ending means is — you guessed it — there might be a sequel if this one makes enough money.