What Josiah Saw (2021)
September 3, 2022 1:22 PM - Subscribe

Everyone in town knows about the haunted Graham Farm on Willow Road. Josiah and his youngest son, Thomas, are all that remain of this estranged family. But after experiencing terrifying visions from beyond, Josiah decides they must change their ways to right a great wrong. After being away for over two decades, Eli and Mary, Josiah's eldest children, are enticed to sell the property and reunite at the old farmhouse in hopes of closing this haunting chapter of their lives for good. Sins of the past will be paid in full.

Starring Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Kelli Garner, Jake Weber, Tiny Hale, and Scott Haze.

Directed by Vincent Grashaw from a script by Robert Alan Dilts.

90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

A Shudder original.
posted by DirtyOldTown (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I watched this a few weeks ago and really appreciated that it was striving for something, much more than 90% of horror movies in this budget zone, but I don't think it ever got there; it veered into what felt like grim-for-grim's-sake territory a few times more than it needed to; the whole Eli subplot was... its own thing.

I think the big dark idea would have actually been more effective if it had happened in a less grimy cinematic world where not everyone was terrible all the time and people would occasionally wash their faces or something. The big reveal was pretty broadly telegraphed, and since the audience were being led along the path to think the movie was about one Very Bad Thing, the revelation that it's actually One Worse Bad Thing is like finding out the movie character you thought was a murderer is a serial killer. My dude is already a murderer, so the bolt on of the even worse thing is... yeah, bad, but not a shocker.

This all sounds like I didn't like it, and I actually did like it overall, I just felt like maybe the writer and director need to take a walk sometimes, get some sunshine, watch a bird or something. I think they've definitely got good movies in them, and maybe if they weren't working so hard to impress with all the grimness, they'd do something stellar.
posted by Shepherd at 6:43 PM on September 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

That was a perfect review, Shep.

"Tiny" Hale. Maaaaan, fuck autocorrect.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:10 PM on September 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yeah, agreed about the film's ambitions, which I liked, and the grimness-upon-grimness-for-its-own-sake, which did get tiresome. I mean, aside from the awful, shallow stereotyping of the child-stealing traveler clan, did this small film about buried Southern family secrets really need cursed Jewish Holocaust gold teeth *and* demonic Roma fortunetelling? No, it really didn't, and while they both added to the creepy mood, the middle section about Eli being forced into a bizarre, fairly stupid caper felt like it belonged to another, very different and much sillier movie.

But Nick Stahl sells the hell out of it (I just also watched him as a severely traumatized young teen in Tim Blake Nelson's grim, creepy 1997 small drama Eye of God and have decided I'll watch anything he's in from now on) and the grit and grime really worked to set a very Flannery gothic mood. I didn't see the reveal about Josiah coming at all, and thought the other reveal, while telegraphed, was still very powerful, especially after the effective attempt at a misdirect that Eli and Mary nearly pulled off.

More ambitious horror films that don't quite come together in the end but are a weirdly interesting ride while they last, please.
posted by mediareport at 8:34 PM on September 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

This has so much in it. And a lot of it is good. But there's this whole stitching together disparate plot lines thing, like they'd watched Tarantino late and just now got bit by the bug that swallowed up indie filmmaking in the mid 90's. The lift of the heroin-getting-taken-for-coke thing was a pretty big tell.

That said, there are some excellently put together scenes here. I respect the ambition and within scenes, the execution is good. Not all of the connecting tissue works for me, though.

I would have seen this all in one go if they hadn't started with the Robert Patrick storyline.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:46 PM on November 2, 2022

It's weird because this has some four star scenes, but a less than the sum of its parts problem, and some really problematic stuff in its depiction of Romani, and some Nazi/Holocaust stuff shoehorned in that isn't precisely offensive but feels unearned in a skeevy way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:06 PM on November 2, 2022

I can't even hang a star rating on it because it's got way too much style, craft, and ambition to give it a low score, a real less than the sum of its parts problem, and a couple of serious demerits that drag it down further.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:12 PM on November 2, 2022

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