Friday, July 13, 2007


What if your child had always been a little odd, and you eventually began wondering if he wasn’t evil? Joshua asks this question, and the result is a mixed, though memorable, result that, although I can’t recommend, is still better than expected.

To the causual observer the Cairn’s are your typical upper-middle class family. Brad (Sam Rockwell) works too hard in an investment company, Abby (an almost unrecognizable Vera Farmiga) stays home and takes care of their son Joshua (Jacob Kogan) and thier newborn daughter Lily. Scratch the surface however and you’ll find plenty of troubles in the Cairn home.

To begin with Abby has a history of mental problems and increasing anxiety over not being able to care for her new baby. And then there’s Joshua who, to put it politely, is a little off. When the family begins to spiral out of control Brad begins to suspect that everything can be traced to one cause - his son. Is this young nine-year-old responsible for it all?

Although the film doesn’t quite work, it does a good job in presenting the unraveling of the main characters of the story. Farmiga gives a nice performance as a woman who slowly becomes completely unhinged. Such a performance could easily slip into melodrama (as other aspects of the film do), but Farmiga brings a stark realism to the role that helps hold the film together.

Another nice choice is to present Joshua as odd and creepy, but not necessarily evil (at least through the first two-thirds of the film). This allows the possibility for the audience that he may or may not be the cause of all the family’s troubles. Of course this is thrown away in the rushed, and more than a little ridiculous, last act of the film.

In terms of tone Joshua can never quite figure out what film it wants to be. There is some nice rising tension throughout the film, but it is also undercut by some hilarious, sometimes intentional sometimes not, moments as well. If it had gone for either straight cheese or a true thriller it would have been better served. And the constant piano score, which I’m assuming was an attempt to add drama and suspense, becomes more and more preposterous as the film goes on.

One final criticism. As the film moves between the odd and the laughable and back again, it wastes the talents of some nice supporting actors like Michael McKean in pointless and unnecessary supporting roles. Though the film provides a good character for Farmiga, and a somewhat memorable one for Koogan, many of the smaller characters seem more like unnecessary distractions that parts of a larger story.

I’m not sure who the target audience is for this film. Modern horror fans will probably find the lack of gore and body counts to be exasperating, and suspense/thriller fans will find the odd tone and humor to get in the way of the story. Still, it’s a film that tries to do something more than your brain-dead average summer Hollywood fare, and even with its issues there are some elements and performances to enjoy (and sometimes mock).

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