Review: The Last Will and Testament / Cert: 12 / Director: Rodrigo Gudino / Screenplay: Rodrigo Gudino / Starring: Aaron Poole, Vanessa Redgrave, Julian Richings / Release Date: August 5th
After a series of award winning shorts, writer/director Rodrigo Gudiño presents his first feature length film, The Last Will and Testament (aka The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh).
The movie chronicles the return of antiques collector Leon (Poole) to the family home he has inherited from his estranged mother (Redgrave), a home he finds besieged by shrines to a mysterious religious cult. And as the night wears on, Leon begins to suspect that his mother’s spirit is still in the house, trying to warn him of an imminent, sinister force.
Gudiño’s experience with shorts is apparent right from the start. He treats his first feature with the same amount of attention and meticulous detail as an art house short – it is, quite simply, beautifully made. Leon spends much of the film walking in and out of shot, often chasing the camera, establishing his vulnerability against the baleful force inside the house.
The score is produced by one Mercan Dede and is by far the most audacious and impressive aspect of the production. It skirts between religious themes and more archetypal horror conventions with an ominous nonchalance – commanding your attention and providing the scenes with an almost palpable dread. Considering the technical elements only, the film is am unbridled success; the cinematography has its own narrative; sweeping and fluid, and the set is dense with detail and sentiment.
Unfortunately, these stylistic accomplishments buckle under the film’s shaky foundations. For the first two acts of the film, the acting is a master class in minimalism. Which is a nice way of saying there doesn’t seem to be much acting going on at all. And though one might attribute this to the themes of isolation and regret that are embedded deep with the film’s DNA, it does not make for compulsive viewing. It is only in the third act of the film that Poole is given something to react to, and unfortunately the actor lacks the charisma necessary to carry the film during those quieter, more introspective moments earlier on.
That being said, the lack of big scares and jump-worthy moments probably only enhances the film’s overall chilling atmosphere. Because the plot is forwarded almost exclusively by Vanessa Redgrave’s creepy narration, the audience is left feeling alienated and uneasy, even as the film limps toward its rather abrupt pay off.
Though The Last Will and Testament serves as a nice change of pace against the year’s more traditional horror films, this sombre, psychological affair ultimately fails to live up to its full potential.