Loneliness is a frightening emotion in its own right. The root of much depression, and in more extreme cases self-mutilation and suicidal tendencies, can be found within loneliness. However, the most frightening aspect of loneliness may be the omnipotence of the emotion. Loneliness can strike anyone at anytime throughout his or her entire life. The psychological and spiritual repercussions of loneliness, as well as death and claustrophobia to certain degrees, fuel The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, which ultimately finds itself tonally stranded between fascinatingly eerie and distractingly uneven.
Rosalind Leigh revolves around the basic, if not familiar, concept of a young man, inheriting a house filled with memories, secrets and possibly something more supernatural. Aaron Poole, whose performance gets better as the running time goes on, anchors the film. Other performances either appear only in audio form, such as Vanessa Redgrave as the titular narrator, or via pre-recorded footage seen on an old television. In any case, the acting in the film often comes second to the atmosphere of the film, comprised of tension built from tracking shots, and a wandering visual narrative.
Rosalind Leigh’s visual properties attempt to let much of the story tell itself to varied results, which then turn to the story, which is weak but almost intentionally so. The film places much emphasis on the power of faith and belief, exercising standards of the genre including contact with the dead, hooded cult members and of course, demonic monsters. But the power of these additions is less meaningful when Rosalind Leigh largely lies on ambiguity to progress the story, and there is no real sense of closure when the film comes to credits. This, however, does not mean the film is any less intriguing or well-made. The film is quite entertaining, and perhaps the ambiguity of the story is there to keep audiences in a state of wonder whilst the creepier elements sink in unnoticed. However, the caliber of the script at hand, while not terrible, is too underwhelming to fully give credence to this mindset, not to mention its accompanying jump-scare friendly score.
Director Rodrigo Gudiño displays an incredible amount of promise with his feature directorial debut, as his focused, unique shooting style allows the film to play closer to classic haunted house films rather than modern thrillers – despite many tropes of the latter appearing sporadically throughout. Gudiño provides a dreamlike quality to the film that, had the script been more distinguished and distinctive, would have truly made this film a memorable entry in the horror genre. I still would recommend at least a watch of Rosalind Leigh, as the parts of the whole are quite promising, and at the very least establish that Gudiño is a talent to watch. Unfortunately, though, the film lays too comfortably in a place of arrested development, not willing to commit to its freakier elements, and allows style to come before substance.
– By Ken W. Hanley