Directed by Rodrigo Gudiño
Stars: Aaron Poole and Vanessa Redgrave
The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh by Rodrigo Gudiño is his first feature-length film. He’s accomplished much with his Rue Morgue magazine and video line, but this is a new direction. When interviewed, Gudino claimed he was trying to make a religious horror movie, for example The Exorcist. He also mentioned how he wanted it to be a literary horror movie. His overall concept was for the movie to be watched by an individual, much as one person reads a book by themselves. Video is a perfect medium for one-person viewing.
A young man returns to the house of his deceased mother. He’s an antiques dealer and discovers she has been filling the house with things she’s discretely purchased from him. We know his father was the leader of a renegade angel worshiping church. We also discover his father committed suicide. During the course of his stay in the house strange things happen. Statues disappear and reappear. Ominous shaped appear in the background. An unseen caller at the door warns him of a beast wandering around the neighborhood. Is it all in his mind? Or is it someone else’s mind?
At times this movie reminds me of Del Toro, other times David Lynch. It is a very original concept: a haunted house movie with one actor. 95% of the film consists of Aaron Poole encountering the house. Vanessa Redgrave exists in voice-overs. She introduces the film by reading a letter; it’s all part of her last will and testament. Through her readings we learn the back story of the movie. Poole encounters other people only by voice: over his cell phone. Here is one modern horror movie where the director doesn’t dispense with the cell phones in the beginning!
The atmosphere is what makes this movie scary. The sole actor is stuck in a house filled with creepy antiques. Some are religious in nature. Whoever designed the set for this film deserves countless awards. From the outside, the house resembles any upscale stone faux medieval McMansion. It does have a heavy-duty dungeon front door (you can buy those at Home Depot). So you are never sure if a shadowy figure in the background is a statue or something worse.
Being a modern horror film, it has the contractual CGI monster. The viewer doesn’t see much of this one until a dream sequence, so you are never sure if it is supposed to be real or a hallucination. This one is first glimpsed on a security monitor while the protagonist is trying to contact the security company. Just as the image shows up on the monitor, he loses connection with the technician.
Rosalind Leigh is a dark and melancholy film. It clocks in at just under an hour and a half. It’s open to many interpretations, which was probably the director’s intent.