What Josiah Saw
Set in rural southern USA, director Vincent Grashaw brings an atmospheric slice of American Gothic to Shudder original What Josiah Saw as it ties together three plotlines anchored around estranged family members tormented by past events. The first sees titular father (Robert Patrick) and his adult son, Thomas (Scott Haze), living together at a rundown farmhouse. When Josiah becomes convinced that he’s seeing spiritual visions of his ex-wife, the pair believe that they must atone for past sins. Meanwhile, older siblings Eli (Nick Stahl) and Mary (Kelli Garner) are haunted by the shadows of their own childhoods. And when they each receive a letter offering to buy the farmhouse, their paths collide and their past returns to haunt them.
Bolstered by strong performances and soaked in a grimy atmosphere that throws cold shadows across the old house, Garshaw’s film makes for an arresting viewing experience. Patrick, especially, is a highlight of the flick. His powerful screen presence combined with an understated performance creates some chilling and disturbing moments, particularly one scene where he teaches his son how to be a man. Each anthology chapter is as bleak as the last, with each being substantial enough to form the basis of its own feature. It does take a long time for each of these threads to be tied together. But when they eventually are, writer Robert Alan Dilts still has some strange surprises up his sleeves that will force viewers to recontextualise what they’ve just seen.
Unfortunately, this film is slightly too overcooked when it comes to its delivery. Dizzying atonal strings engulf the soundtrack during any suspenseful scene. The music that seems to take its cues from Insidious quickly overstays its welcome and ultimately transforms each sequence into a parody of itself. If the filmmakers had only put more faith in their vision, the macabre imagery would have been enough to carry the uneasy tone and create a more nuanced film as a result.
Steeped in a rich Gothic atmosphere, What Josiah Saw weaves a multi-faceted tale of trauma that reaches far in its scope. It comes as a disappointment, then, that it sacrifices its sombre tone for cheap blockbuster thrills.
What Josiah Saw is released on 4th August 2022.
Watch the trailer for What Josiah Saw here: