Joshua is one of those rare films that I walked in knowing absolutely nothing about and was in for an interesting experience. This film is The Omen without all the supernatural elements and a better child actor than the goofy looking kid they used in the recent remake.
When Joshua begins we are introduced to this perfect middle class New York family who stereotypically lives in a fabulous NY Apartment – probably on the Upper West Side, but we don’t know for sure. In the opening scene we are introduced to the Cairn family, the Stock Broker dad Brad (played by the underappreciated Sam Rockwell), the stay at home mom who just had a baby, Abby (Vera Farmiga who you may remember from The Departed) and the overachieving perfect son, Joshua (newcomer Jacob Kogan).
Everything is idyllic as Joshua plays a song on the Piano for his visiting grandparents and you get the first hint that something isn’t right when everyone fawns over the new baby, while Joshua sits and stares. His expression is vacant, but there’s clear malice hidden beneath the surface. Young Kogan never once overacts, if anything he plays the role in a completely understated way. He’s just there, always looking, calculating it really creeps you out.
As strange things start to happen around the house, like the noise coming from construction above and a baby that cries constantly Abby slowly descends into insanity, while the overworked dad is forced to start to spend more time at home to try and help his family. At one point Joshua has a creepy conversation with his dad telling that “He doesn’t have to love him.” That statement ends up being a prophetic foreshadowing for the rest of the film.
Director George Ratliff pacing is deliberately slow as he tries to build the tension throughout the piece. Unfortunately it’s the slowness of it that almost kills the film, the first 60 minutes move at a snail’s pace, but it’s worth putting up with because in the third act is when the film truly comes alive as Brad finally clues into the fact that his son is an Evil little shit and the two get into a battle of wits. Usually in a film like this the family never realizes what’s happening until they are all dead, but this time it was a cool change of pace to see the father try and take control and gain the upper hand.
The film’s closing moments and the end song by Dave Matthews (I think) leave you feeling haunted and thinking about it for days. It’s been a long time since a film’s ending had that kind of impact on me. If you can put up with the first 60 minutes of this 90 minute film then the payoff is almost worth the wait.
Final Grade B
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