I’ve been debating whether these posts should be called “underappreciated” or “underrated”. I’m going to stick with underappreciated because it does a better job of conveying how I feel about the films personally. I appreciate them and I think more people should too. Underrated could be an inaccurate description of, say, a film that has a high Metacritic score but not a lot of traction among horror fans. Maybe it had a tiny theatrical run and slipped through the cracks. Maybe it didn’t have a theatrical run at all and didn’t get much press. Maybe it’s foreign/old/weird/arthouse/not strictly horror/etc. Maybe I’m just not as connected to the horror grapevine as I’d like to think I am. Whatever the reason, I feel the need to sing the praises of these films in hopes of getting somebody who hasn’t seen them to check one out. I’m letting you know what I like and I hope you’ll like it too. (i’m pretty brave, I know) So, with that in mind, let’s get into The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, shall we?
Leon is an antiques broker who returns to his mother’s (the Rosalind Leigh of the title) home after she dies to take stock of things and grieve. They’ve been estranged for quite a while. She was a religious weirdo. Like, part of a cult obsessed with angels. Mom is heard in voice over. She talks about loneliness and regret. Leon finds all of the special antiques that an anonymous benefactor bought from him. He also finds a video that seems to show an angel or some supernatural force. He wrestles with his abandonment, his father’s suicide, his mother’s death, and his own personal demons. All while a very real demon stalks him from the shadows.
The synopsis of this film is a little shorter than the ones I usually write, but that is just a product of the type of film it is. It doesn’t rely on action or exposition to drive the narrative. Instead, it presents a setting – mom’s creepy angel-filled home – and focuses on the emotional effects that setting has on Leon. Sure, we hear from the dead woman, but this isn’t really her story. It’s Leon’s struggle with his own history that makes the viewer feel invested. It may not even be his story. The place has changed since his mother died. It now has a ‘life’ of its own. It drips with an ominous atmosphere that permeates every shot of Rodrigo Gudino’s (of Rue Morgue Magazine fame) film. The set design is spot on and the deep, rich color palette is gorgeous. Gudino let’s his shots linger on statuary, hallways, shadows, etc. until the viewer is just uncomfortable enough. This discomfort puts us right in the head of Leon whose discoveries, doubts, regrets, and (possible) hallucinations are threatening to push him over the edge. The film is all about mood and atmosphere, so it is especially impressive that Gudino creates a sympathetic mood (like sympathy pains. but for moods) in the viewer. That said (uh oh), there are a couple of scenes of demonic presence that I didn’t think were entirely necessary. The audience is on board, we don’t need proof of the menace. The scenes do serve to put Leon’s sanity in doubt though. (he even calls his psychologist/girlfriend for some help) But a little ambiguity may have been preferable in this case.
THE FINAL CUT: The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is a gorgeous atmospheric chiller. It builds dread and sympathy steadily as its protagonist sifts through artifacts of his family history and faces up to being haunted by his personal demons.