Rod Gudino has long been a name I associate with everything classy about horror. He founded Rue Morgue Magazine, which is now the most respected horror publication in the world. The articles he wrote over the years for the magazine were insightful, intelligent and always respectful of the genre, never talking down to it. He has also become the director of some of the most interesting and innovative horror short films I have ever seen. The most intriguing one, The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, is gleefully included on the release of Mr. Gudino’s first feature film out this week, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh.
Leon (Aaron Poole) is an antiques dealer returning to his mother’s home following her death. Leon has long been estranged from his overly religious mother and has been left everything in her will. Visiting her gothic house, Leon plans to sell her vast collection of antiquities and move on with his life, but his mother’s connection to a mysterious cult and some strange goings on in the house force Leon to not only question what his mother believed, but perhaps what his beliefs are as well.
The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is perhaps the most unique haunted house movie I have ever seen. Gudino uses his camera as not only the viewer’s eyes, but maybe even as our disembodied souls as we wander the vacated home. His camera moves constantly and deliberately causing a strange sense of claustrophobia within the confines of Leon’s mother’s home. The house and the set decoration in it are truly amazing. I am not sure how much was in the actual house they filmed in or how much was set decoration, but this is one of the most incredible settings for a horror film ever. The sense of foreboding and dread that Gudino has created is tangible and wholly encompassing. This is not the horror movie to invite the friends over to watch, this is the film to put on at 3am when you have insomnia so that it will unnerve you enough to force you to go back to bed. Aaron Poole is excellent as Leon, the man who must question his own beliefs in order to figure out what is happening in the house, and his mother’s narration, provided by veteran actor Vanessa Redgrave, is just sublime. There is so much life and warmth in her voice it is comforting as she guides you through the story, but there is also an underlying sense that she knows more than she is letting on. There is something subliminally sinister about her tone that is just delightful. This is an impressive debut from Gudino and frankly, I am both excited and terrified to see what he comes up with next, both in the best possible way.
Available now on DVD.