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John’s Horror Corner: The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012), a horror film that manages to stand out as unique

August 14, 2013

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MY CALL:  A solid success for a writer/director with a small budget on his first feature length film.  I’m excited to see what this guy does next.  Amid the constantly recycled concepts and axioms that both plague and serve as hallmarks for the horror genre, this film manages to stand out as original. The story is nothing wowing and the horror elements are technically not unique.  But the approach was!  Because of this, I struggle to compare this to any other horror.

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After her passing and leaving everything to her only son, antiquities dealer and atheist Leon (Aaron Poole) visits his estranged mother’s (Vanessa Redgrave) home which is neatly, but densely decorated with all manner and medium of Christian–and not so Christian–artifacts, making it somewhat unsettling.  The house is also littered with stitched and framed religious adages formed into strange warnings.

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The recently deceased Rosalind Leigh (Vanessa Redgrave; Nip/Tuck) narrates, explaining her distance from her son, her deep religious beliefs and Leon’s resentful distance from the faith.  In this modern approach to a classic-style ghost story Rosalind, haunted by her past, learns what it will be like to remain forever alone.

There is plenty of creepy in this house of angel statues and forces which would prey on the non-believers dwelling within.  As we question where Leon’s soul will fall on the counterbalance weighing Leon’s lack of faith against those powers that would claim his ungrateful soul, he his hunted by some manner of beast outside the house.

In a well-lit church? Fine. But anywhere with suboptimal lighting angel statues are just plain creepy!  There.  I said it!

This film features only one character that we “see.”  There are many represented by video or voice (as by phone call), but we watch only Leon interact with his surroundings.  His therapist girlfriend remotely leads Leon and us viewers to question if Leon is going mad, or if he really is being hunted by an other-worldly evil.

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Writer/director Rodrigo Gudiño shows us some proficient camera work.  Nothing spectacular, but he serves his film well.  The CGI effects are better when they’re not the focus of the shot.  Briefly animated statues elicit expected uneasy jumps and the beast, when framed in a shadowy corner, is scary and of off-putting form.  But when it comes to fully revealing the creature via close-ups or action, it’s just some anorexic werewolf-looking thing from a ScyFy movie-of-the-week.

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The poor quality CGI and use of a single on screen actor help inform us of the small budget Gudiño had at his disposal for his first feature length film.  Being the lone actor, Aaron Poole faced an unusual challenge having no one with whom he could directly interact.  So don’t be too quick to criticize his performance or Gudiño’s story staging.  I’d love to see what Gudiño could do with even a small studio budget for a theatrical release.  He has good ideas and a proficiency that exceeds most horror filmmakers of such limited experience.

See this, be mindful of Gudiño’s financial limitations and get stoked for the day this guy gets a budget and some more actors to direct.

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This is a misleading poster, but it looks cool.

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