Image Entertainment has tabbed July 30 as the DVD debut date for The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh. Of note, this is the Rue Morgue magazine’s founder Rodrigo Gudiño’s first foray into feature films (as both writer and director).
As someone who has lived and breathed horror (since 1997 … and certainly before the magazine’s founding), Gudiño knows his stuff and the move to feature films is certainly a logical progression for him — having scored both critical praise and festival wins for his previous short films (The Eyes of Edward James (2006), The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow (2008), etc.).
It’s a ghost story. It’s a haunted house thriller. Things that go bump in the night. The occult. All of the above, but with a few twists that deftly blend a literary sense with atmosphere, a terrific set piece and the chills you demand from genre works of this nature.
Let’s start with the set; the spooky house. It is a character onto itself. The house is where the lead character, Leon (Aaron Poole — This Beautiful City, Small Town Murder Songs, etc.), grew up in as a kid and he now returns to claim as his own after his mother’s (played by Vanessa Redgrave) death.
But a lot has happened in the intervening years as mom, the Rosalind Leigh of the film’s title, has gone off the deep end. The place is a treasure trove of angelic figures, little shrines and more … not light and airy (heaven-like), but creepy.
Add to this a filmmaking technique that is always a double-edge sword. The narration of the lead character — in this case Rosalind (the dead woman speaks!). In Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. the comments of Joe Gillis (William Holden) were inspired and took the film to another level, but in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon the running commentary by Barry Lyndon (Ryan O’Neal) only made the film seem twice as long as it was … “and now horrible things would happen,” and for the next forty minutes we would watch horrible things unfold.
On balance, this technique of having Rosalind/Redgrave provide a narrative link to the proceedings works and when you combine that with the set decoration (outstanding — clearly worked out in advance to aid in camera movement) you have just the right mix to make it a spooky chiller; a ghost story … a haunting.
The only downside is … if Leon was acting as a reasonable person, he would have gotten the hell out of there after a bump here and a bump there. But then we would not have much of a story …
Bonus features include commentary by writer/director Rodrigo Gudiño, his short film, The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, a photo gallery and two featurettes.
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