Joshua

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Being a parent is a difficult thing. (I accidentally killed all of my children.) The horror genre has always played on parental fears with classic films like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “It’s Alive,” “The Omen,” “The Brood,” and more recently, “The Cradle,” amongst others. Bringing new life into the world and responsibly teaching it right from wrong can be a scary thing in a world plagued by jaded youth and violence, and filmmakers can milk the shit out of that fear. George Ratliff’s latest indie effort “Joshua” puts the most frightening question in your head, parent or not: “What if your child didn’t expect you to love them?”

In the film, the titular character is a polite, smart, and well mannered 9-year-old near-piano prodigy, raised by his loving and hard working father Brad (Sam Rockwell) and his pregnant mother Abby (Vera Farmiga). When Joshua’s (Jacob Kogan) baby sister Lily is born, it seems like everything is perfect. All of the affection that Lily receives from the family seems to affect Joshua but it’s hard to tell if it’s because of jealousy or not. Soon, Abby begins to suffer from post-partum depression which she originally went through with Joshua. On top of her bitter mood-swings, Brad is having trouble at work since his company is losing money. Noticing that Joshua is being neglected by everyone, Brad decides to spend some time with him to help him adjust to having a new baby in the house. It’s soon that he realizes Joshua isn’t a very normal child. When your kid can recite ancient Egyptian death practices with full fledged enthusiasm and even practices them on his stuffed animals, you being to wonder. Soon life at home is hell, and though Brad manages to keep his cool, Abby is starting to go crazy from her depression and begins accusing Joshua of many of the problems that are causing her paranoia. Soon Brad is forced to accept the possible idea that Josh is orchestrating the collapse of his family.

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I’ve been keeping up with this movie for a very long time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read internet users posting messages about how “god awful” this movie is and that it was “laughable” and “just stupid.” Well, those people are probably watching “Meet the Spartans” right now and laughing their remedial English asses off. “Joshua” is a beautifully constructed film. From the haunting score to the sharp cinematography, it exceeds in all technical aspects. The acting is spot on and all of the characters are realistic and relatable, but it’s Jacob Kogan who stole the show for me. This kid is just fucking genius. His expressions are powerful and don’t even need words to compliment them while his piano playing is so beautiful it’s deadly. He delivers his lines with ironic ease, capturing the eerie undertones of his motives. When a homeless man asks him for spare change in a park, he responds, “I’ll give you five dollars if I can throw a rock at you.”

“Joshua” is a movie I would recommend to anyone with a flare for indie-horror/psych-thriller tastes. Fans of Hitchcock will probably bask in the film’s gloomy style and locations until it reaches the final revelation, which would probably please Hitchcock himself. Joshua may not be the son of Satan, but I’d still be proud to call him my own.

-andrew.

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~ by exploitnation on March 2, 2008.

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