Good ghost stories are not only hard to find but also they’re increasing hard to make. Audiences have grown enamored of so much pomp and circumstance – along with the occasional slashed throat and/or bared breasts – that it’s hard to rustle up some legitimate scares that stick in their mind into of as flickers of a celluloid experience. It could be that we’ve grown a bit too long in the tooth as a society to accept that ghosts are … well, they’re ‘something’ of a sort that defies a conventional explanation. Those who go looking for them might be shocked by what they find, but, sadly, most viewers tune out stories that are too much story and not enough flash.
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH presents a modern ‘take’ on the old ghost story – a woman haunted by her own personal past comes to grips with what it’ll be like to remain forever alone.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and character. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Leon (played with Ambien-style restraint by Aaron Poole) goes ‘home’ to his deceased mother’s house to account for his inheritance. However, there’s a dark and ominous force at work in the dwelling, and, if he’s not careful in what he believes, the thing might just have a thing or two to say about his survival.
THE LAST WILL has been the recipient of some generous critical buzz, most of which comes from the festival circuit and/or promotional copies provided to interested media outlets. In his quest to find an audience for the picture, writer/director Rodrigo Gudino has built up an impressive roster of award citations. It won “Best Film” at the 2012 South African Horrorfest. It also was the “Audience Jury Prize” for the 2012 Siena International Film Festival. It received a “Special Mention” at the 2012 Morbido Film Festival. Furthermore, it won “Best Cinematography” at the 2012 Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Film Festival.
Winning awards is one thing; entertaining audiences isn’t so easy.
I have absolutely no problem giving LAST WILL the highest possible mention for its cinematography, which is astoundingly superb from start-to-finish. Seriously, it’s the kind of work that warrants further study, and I’ve no doubt that film school students and cinema academics will be mesmerized by the impressive camera work. Sadly, there’s so little teeth to this – it’s a traditional, old-school ghost story – and that’s hard for audiences to get all that excited about.
Poole does the best he can with the highly atmospheric material and locations – the house is a puzzle unto itself, and the set décor is hauntingly brilliant. Still, it’s hard to elevate the story beyond the mundane, especially when you’re essentially the only living person in the film. (There are other characters who appear via telephone or on the other side of a closed door; and, yes, there are a couple of faces tucked in nice and neat near the end, but that’s it.) As he’s cornered with no one to physically react to and against, he’s left doing everything; as much as I’d like to offer some modest praise for his performance, it just didn’t show all that much range.
Is that his fault? Well, not really. Unfortunately, he’s sheltered into this house by Gudino. As a puppetmaster of all things in LAST WILL, he only does an affable job so far as this Average Joe of a critic is concerned. Yes, it’s interesting; it just ain’t all that memorable.
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH (2012) is produced by Someone At The Door Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by RLJ Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, let me be perfectly clear: the picture looks and sounds pretty downright incredible, and it boasts some fascinatingly complex cinematography – the kind of stuff one would expect from a quality ghost story. (I just wish it were all more entertaining.) Bucking the trend with horror releases, the folks behind this one have ponied up a wonderful assortment of special features: there’s an audio commentary with writer/director Gudino, an extensive making-of short, a ‘Mercan Dede’ feature, a poster gallery, some nifty photos from the production, and a short film (THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MISTER HOLLOW) also from Gudino’s personal vault. Impressive, indeed.
RECOMMENDED. Entirely atmospheric, yes, but that’s about all it is. It’s a nice ‘contemporization’ of psychological horror, but at 80 minutes it’s probably 30 minutes longer than it need be. Good ghost stories are hard to find, and THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH is sprinkled with a healthy amount of good ideas, only they’re spaced out too far and between scenes of downright ‘dullery.’ Visually, it’s the creepy old house that takes center stage, leaving Aaron Poole mostly in the role as set dressing. I’ve no doubt it’ll find an audience will film scholars, cinematography nerds, and maybe horror purists, but this one? It ain’t for the masses … unless they’re still awake.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJ Entertainment provided me with an advance DVD copy of THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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