In What Josiah Saw, after two decades, a damaged family reunites at their remote farmhouse, where they confront long-buried secrets and sins of the past. The film, which is written by Robert Alan Dilts, stars Robert Patrick (The Terminator), Nick Stahl (Sin City), Scott Haze (Child of God) and Kelli Garner (Lars And The Real Girl).
Ordinarily when we’re talking about a Shudder Original Film we’re talking large scale scares and buckets of gore. The horror streamer has a proven track record for creating perfect instant gratification horror. The bread and butter of what has made the franchise one of the greatest in cinema history.
But with some of its more recent acquisitions, the platform has really begun to show the wonderful nuances which burn under the surface of the complex banner of “horror”. With What Josiah Saw director Vincent Grashaw is leaning in to the slow-burn in incredible and enthralling ways.
There’s no doubt that some of the film’s subject matter will be divisive. There were moments I felt compelled to look away from the screen to avoid awkward subject matter. But for those willing to invest in its 120 minute runtime, the film has an incredibly thought provoking story to tell.
The narrative is broken up in to four self-contained chapters. Each focussing on a different aspect of the Graham family. Robert Patrick stars as patriarch Josiah Graham, a drunken, abusive parent slowly suffocating his children. Nick Stahl, Scott Haze and Kelli Garner play his deeply affected children Eli, Thomas and Mary. Each carries their own scars left behind by their father’s mistreatment.
Though supernatural elements are peppered throughout, What Josiah Saw becomes more creepy through its lack of reliance on devilish creatures. The negative actions and poor choices of its characters take on a life of their own, haunting the audience and leading to dark places for the Graham family.
Stalh, in particular, stands out for his performance as Eli. His story dominates much of the second act as we journey deep in to his memories as well as following the fallout of his gambling addiction. The connection between all three siblings is beautifully written. Their emotional connection rising about their individual actions.
Even when not on screen, the spectre of Patrick’s Josiah looms large. He inhabits the most direct representation of classic horror in the film. Living in the family farmhouse, supposedly haunted by the ghost of his dead wife. His transformation in to religious fanatic is equally as disconcerting as his abusive behaviour towards Thomas.
What Josiah Saw is a real mix of genres, taking ingredients from multiple sources to create something new. Its nightmarish vision of family dynamics will linger with the audience long after Robert Pycior’s equally affecting score as reached its conclusion.
A truly slow-burning film, What Josiah Saw is a disturbing tale of a family overshadowed by the haunting presence of a deplorable patriarch.
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