FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 23, 2013

Film Club: The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh

I don't know what things are things anymore, so I ask: is complaining that there's no original horror on the market nowadays still a thing? If it is, everyone should stop that right now. RIGHT NOW I SAY. There's been massive amounts of original horror on the market for, oh, the last five-six years or so. Sure, maybe the good stuff doesn't always make it to your local cinetheatermultiplexateria, but it's out there. The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012) is one mighty fine example.

After the death of his mother Rosalind (Vanessa Redgrave), Antiques dealer Leon Leigh (Aaron Poole) returns to her home to take stock of whatever she's left behind. A night spent in the house he hasn't seen in years leaves him grappling with memories of childhood abuse, attempting to suss out his mother's involvement with a angel-worshipping cult, and perhaps running from the evil forces of the same.

You won't be wrong if you expect that writer/director Rodrigo Gudino's pedigree as the founder of Rue Morgue magazine means he knows a little something about crafting an effective horror film. Rosalind Leigh is unsettling throughout, building to a final twenty minutes or so of pure terror. Mind, this ain't one for the blood-n-guts jumpscare jump cut crowd. Rather, it's quiet, cerebral, and yes, the slowest of slow burns. Patience is rewarded, as I assume repeat viewings would be. To put it bluntly, Gudino's film make those of Ti West look like action-packed thrill rides, and that's certainly not going to cut it for every genre fan.

I've never seen anything structured quite like Rosalind Leigh. It may not make any sense, but it plays a bit like a feature-length short film. It's very confined in both time and space: it's one man spending one night in one house. There are other characters but they are only voices on the phone, voices hidden behind doors, perhaps glimpsed in a video or a flashback. Although she's dead, Rosalind's presence weighs heavy in every scene, sometimes amplified by the sadness and longing in Redgrave's terrific voiceover work.

Religion is at the forefront of Rosalind Leigh, and her sprawling, angel-filled house is like Margaret White's wet dream mansion. If you've ever found Christian iconography disquieting, this film is going to get your panties in, like, ten twists. The camera lingers on faces, in corners, in the dark, and you're never quite sure what's going to move. This place is a nightmare and were I Leon, I'd have nuked it from orbit.

nope, no thank you

Gudino lays down some ideas about faith and superstition, about the loving God/vengeful God dichotomy and belief: does it make things happen, or prevent them from happening? (I found myself thinking that it must be pretty stressful to live as a hardcore True Believer, always worried about pissing off the dude in charge, you know?) While it opens the door to discussion, however, Rosalind Leigh ultimately doesn't provide a true resolution to the goings-on. Whether or not the film satisfies you in the end may be in direct proportion to your willingness to let questions go un answered. To me, the ride was most definitely worth it.

And if there's one thing that The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh taught me, it's that under no circumstances should you ever drop your fucking fork.

Film Club Coolies!
Pokoli Park
Nerds Die Last
Diana Rogers
Life Between Frames
The Verdant Dude
Mermaid Heather


Nicholas Kaufmann said...

I loved this movie! I found it a very interesting meditation on loneliness and despair.

Verdant Earl said...

I didn't like it as much as you, but I was pretty drunk when I watched it and wrote my review. So there's that.

Stacie Ponder said...

Had I tried to watch it drunk, I would have fallen asleep during the first tracking shot

Chris Otto said...

Nice review. Color me intrigued.* I'm going to check this out when I get a chance. ...

*-Not sure what color you use for "intrigued."

Jack Berzeviczy said...

Film club party! Reading y'all's stuff I'm shocked I totally whiffed on the religious aspect in my review. See I have a super religious dead mom so it seemed pretty normal and I guess I didn't notice. But now that you point it out, wow yeah religious subtext everywhere. Thank you for your perspective.