The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - WHAT JOSIAH SAW | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - WHAT JOSIAH SAW

what josiah saw review
An estranged family confronts its dark past when an offer is made to purchase their land.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Vincent Grashaw

Starring: Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Scott Haze, Kelli Garner, Jake Weber

what josiah saw poster

Sorcerer, William Friedkin's remake of The Wages of Fear, famously departs from the original by spending its first half spinning backstories of the various men who will eventually undertake its dangerous journey in the second half. It's almost an anthology film, and I don’t think I'm alone in enjoying the first half of Friedkin's remake more than the second. Director Vincent Grashaw and writer Robert Alan Dilts pull a similar trick with their Southern Gothic thriller What Josiah Saw. Much of its runtime is devoted to the backstories of two of its central characters, and these chapters of the film are more involving than the final act that weaves them into the central plot.

what josiah saw review

Robert Patrick is in typically gruff form as Josiah, the abusive, alcoholic patriarch of the Graham family. An oil company wants to buy the family farm, despite being warned off by the local sheriff, who spins a tale of how Josiah's wife hung herself after seemingly enduring years of torment; her ghost is now said to haunt the farm. Josiah dismisses such claims, but his mentally challenged son Thomas (Scott Haze), who has recently returned to live with him, is convinced he sees visions of his mother. One night, Thomas is surprised when Josiah claims he too has been visited by the spirit, and immediately decides to change his ways, giving up the bottle and helping his son to fix up the farm.

The second chapter introduces us to Thomas's older, wayward brother Eli (Nick Stahl). Recently released from prison for the statutory rape of a 16-year-old he claims lied about her age, Thomas has run up a debt to a dangerous mobster, Boone (Jake Weber). To clear his debt, Boone sends Thomas on what might be a suicide mission to steal gold from the gypsy clan whose carnival is about to leave town. This sequence is the film's highlight, a short thriller as engaging as any of the segments of Pulp Fiction. Grashaw ramps up the tension and manages to get us onside with Thomas despite him being portrayed as anything but a sympathetic figure. We're thrown into a situation where violence can break out at any time – add in some mysticism courtesy of a gypsy medium from the Maria Ouspenskaya school and things take a deliciously uncertain turn.

what josiah saw review

Next we meet Thomas's twin sister Mary (Kelli Garner). Having been sterilised as a young woman (we can guess why this may have been), she now wants to adopt a child but is suffering from intense depression. The tension of Thomas's segment is replaced here by equally effective discomfort during a dinner party in which Mary refuses to be patronised by her husband's friends.

All three of Josiah's children's strands weave together in a final act that spills the beans on the truth behind this family's dark past. You may well have guessed the revelations before the film unveils them, but they're no less shocking regardless.

what josiah saw review

What Josiah Saw is Grashaw's third film, but thanks to it being snapped up by Shudder it will likely serve as most viewers' introduction to his talents. With its dark themes and lengthy backstories it would seem to be inspired by the more sprawling works of Stephen King, and it plays like a more effective King adaptation than any of the actual King adaptations of recent years. Grashaw's direction is mature and unpretentious, never getting in the way of telling his often gripping story. After many years in the wilderness it's something of a comeback for Stahl, once a '90s indie cinema stalwart and excellent here as a sleazebag who possesses a disarming charisma. Patrick's screen persona is used cleverly here, with Grashaw exploiting our preconceptions regarding the sort of characters the actor is known for portraying to great effect.

What Josiah Saw
 is on Shudder from August 4th.

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