Movie Review: What Josiah Saw

What Josiah Saw begins by introducing us to the titular Josiah (Robert Patrick), an elderly widower, and his adult son Thomas (Scott Haze), who still lives with him and tries to take care of the property. Thomas has kept up his mother’s adherence to the teachings of Christianity while his father appears to lean towards atheism until one night, when Josiah is jolted awake by a vision of his deceased wife. He informs his son of this the next day and proclaims that despite her devout nature, she is burning in Hell and that the two of them will have to do as she tells them in order to rescue her soul from eternal damnation.

In the fashion of Pulp Fiction we now switch focus to brother Eli (Nick Stahl). After a mysterious and tragic event at the family farm, he fled to Texas where he has been struggling with addictions to alcohol, drugs, and gambling and as a result has found himself deeply indebted to local crime boss Boone (Jake Weber). He agrees to help a pair of Boone’s goons try to rob a nearby troop of traveling Gypsies in exchange for a clean slate but quickly finds himself in over his head. After that we are introduced to Eli’s twin sister Mary (Kelli Garner). She has been living a relatively comfortable life with husband Ross (Tony Hale), though she still strugges with PTSD as a result of the same incident. The couple have been trying to adopt a baby when she finds herself called to return home to deal with a possible sale of the family farm to a shale oil company, and perhaps find some sort of closure.

This may sound more like a dark family drama than a horror movie, and that’s because in many ways it kind of is, at least up until the final moments. There is a thick layer of dread over just about every frame however, and that combined with the frequent use of an eerily escalating soundtrack can keep viewers on edge. The entire family is pretty messed up and are all ably portrayed by the excellent cast. Patrick exudes the perfect level of creepy menace as the aging patriarch and Haze, Stahl, and Garner come off as convincingly damaged. In keeping with the sort of gothic noir tone that the film is shooting for, the story is unafraid to go to some very dark and disturbing places, though it avoids feeling exploitative in doing so. It has some interesting things to say about familial traumas and the dangers of fanatical belief all while everything builds to a satisfying conclusion that (mostly) answers the myriad questions posed throughout. While What Josiah Saw is the very definition of a slow-burn thriller, the thick atmosphere and lingering mysteries easily keep viewers’ attentions, even if it isn’t the sort of movie that will leave most eager for a rewatch. ★★★★


★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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