I’m a huge fan of films with killer kids stemming back to my first viewing of “The Bad Seed” in high school. The latest film to show a child with the ability to manipulate and kill is the Hitchcockian thriller “Joshua.” This is a movie I was dying to see from the first preview but sadly had to wait till DVD to see but in the end it was more than worth the wait.
Joshua (Jacob Kogen) is forced to welcome his baby sister Lily into the world but doesn’t seem to enthusiastic about it. His parents Brad and Abby (Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga) on the other hand couldn’t be happier and consider their family perfect. Things take a turn when Lily mysteriously starts crying all the time, pressing Abby to the breaking point of losing her sanity. When the family starts to crumble it is up to Brad to put the pieces together and starts to wonder if maybe his prodigy son has anything to do with life falling apart.
This movie seemed very original to me in that it’s not strictly about a killer child there are many layers to it that make it seem all the more complex. You’re essentially watching an already fractured family fall apart and it might not necessarily have taken their son to do the all the damage. A lot of what makes this movie so interesting is the chemistry between the characters. Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga are so normal in the movie that you could easily seem them in normal circumstances. They are able to maintain their relationship even as everything crumbles and it doesn’t feel forced. The relationship they share with their daughter is also very sweet and doesn’t feel odd, it’s only when they are interacting with Joshua that it feels there is a disjoint to their relationship, partially due to the situation they’re in. The movie is very suspenseful with very virtually no death being shown on-screen. There have been many comparisions between this movie and the work of Alfred Hitchcock and it is easy to see how both films are the same with their slow buildup of tension to a twist at the end.
The only gripes I had with this movie are that Jacob Kogen comes off almost robotic in the movie. I understand he’s meant to be a child prodigy but he dialogue is incredibly monotone and clipped, almost as if he’s reading off cue cards. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie but I thought a stronger child actor could have been used. The ending also could be considered weak if you analyzed it. The events could have been prevented when you think about it and some people find fault with that but it didn’t ruin my fun.
The DVD has some very sparse extras on it so don’t go to buy it if you think there’s stuff you need to see. There is an audio commentary with director George Ratliff and writer David Gilbert that was okay to listen to, mostly them praising the film. The deleted scenes are few and are easy to see why they were deleted. There are various interviews with the cast and crew, a very standard “making-of” piece along with young Jacob Kogen’s audition tape which wasn’t that fascinating to me. There is also a music video by Dave Matthews for a song on the film and the theatrical trailer.
While the DVD isn’t packing any amazing bonus material don’t let that stop you from watching a fine, original thriller that has some great dynamics and amazing acting. I thought “Joshua” was very underrated and hope it finds its audience on DVD.