Published May 08, 2013What this horror thriller lacks in tension, it also lacks in scares; however, writer/director Rodrigo Gudino confidently manages to infuse his film with an oppressive atmosphere of Catholic guilt.
It's kind of refreshing to see imagery from that morbid faith used in the service of fear, even if that fear is rather toothless. Aaron Poole (Killing Zelda Sparks) largely has the screen to himself as Leon, the son of Rosalind Leigh (Vanessa Redgrave), a severe woman who lived as a devout member of a strict angel cult. We learn about Mrs. Leigh through the narration of what is presumably her will as Leon explores the house she left him.
The spooky abode is cluttered with religious paraphernalia and a specific angel statue shakes loose a trickle of memories in Leon. Freaked out and dealing with childhood anxieties connected to his dead mother, he begins seeing things.
An undefined friend named Anna (Charlotte Sullivan, The Colony) is his lifeline to sanity. We only ever hear her voice on the phone, talking Leon down from hallucinatory panic attacks; in fact, other than a few brief spectral images of Rosalind Leigh, no other characters show their faces—no other human characters anyway.
For a movie with such obvious budgetary limitations, the creature effects are well done and smartly employed. Whatever "it" is (every time a critic shares a spoiler, a baby auteur dies), we see just enough of not enough of it. This helps the picture gain a few pounds of creepiness in the home stretch but it's still nowhere near being menacing or freaky. Most of the film sluggishly inches by while Leon investigates mysterious VHS and cassette tapes left behind by his mother. Those tapes provide most of the exposition, as Gudino made the respectable decision of having Leon not be the sort of person that talks to himself.
That's what's frustrating about The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh: Gudino displays some promising instincts and his story is clearly very personal but overall the film feels cheap and flimsy in a distinctly Canadian way that a more assured aesthetician would have been able to overcome. (Raven Banner)