Joshua brings a new meaning to awful offspring

Ryan Haidet

Credit: DKS Editors

There’s Damien of The Omen, Regan of The Exorcist and even a meowing kid from The Grudge. This summer there’s a new creepy kid to add to the horror bunch of spooky seeds – Joshua.

There’s no demonic possession here, however, just a 9-year-old boy with a plan of his own.

Joshua, titled after its main character, follows a the Cairns, a Manhattan family that has recently welcomed home its newest member – a baby girl. But older brother Joshua, a clean-cut, smart, piano-playing expert, doesn’t seem pleased at all.

There are immediate signs that something is wrong.

“You know, you don’t have to love me. That’s not a rule or something,” Joshua tells his dad (played by Sam Rockwell).

As the movie progresses, his thoughts get more bizarre and over-thought for a child his age.

“If you think about it, someone has died on every inch of this planet,” he says.

If that’s not enough, his sudden obsession and knowledge of mummies strikes a frightening level as he “preserves” his stuffed panda like the ancient Egyptians did their dead.

Jacob Kogan brings the title character to life with the best performance in the movie. With an angelic appearance and voice, it’s ironic that he is evil. After all, he’s the smart kid in school who purposely gets hit in gym-class dodgeball so he can sit out and read a book instead. This may be an overdone stereotype for a sadistic son, but it’s still creepy.

Vera Farmiga’s role as Joshua’s mother is extremely odd and sometimes difficult to watch. Her actions raise some difficult questions: Is she the crazy one? Is Joshua really that bad of a kid?

Rockwell’s portrayal of Joshua’s father is strong and fun to watch as his character crumbles throughout the feature.

The entire movie surrounds the concept of the family portrait where everybody is smiling and happy. That’s exactly how the Cairn family looks at face value. But looking beyond the fa‡ade and stepping through the doors, one learns there’s so much more to their story.

It’s interesting to watch the parents’ emotional and physical breakdowns. They appear first as wealthy individuals then become disgustingly disheveled. But all the while, Joshua remains the same clean-cut kid he was in the beginning.

The cinematographic style is filled with strong colors and shadows, and high and low angles. One scene immediately comes to mind – his piano concert.

The scene is ominously lit with red splashing the stage as he begins to gracefully play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” But moments later, he messes up and starts pounding random keys, creating a sense of panic, despair, tension and uneasiness, until he passes out.

Then there’s the game of hide and seek with his mother, which will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Although scary at times, the development of the characters takes way too long and will bore most.

It’s an extremely slow-moving film with lots of tension and little payoff compared to other recent horror flicks. The storytelling is the saving grace. But following today’s horror films, this one will likely get lost in the mix like a runaway child in New York City. It’s a film that has potential but will make little impact on the summer box office.

Although there are horrific moments, great acting and cinematography, Joshua will become the forgotten child in the creepy-kid kingdom.

Joshua opens in Cleveland this Friday.

Contact features editor Ryan Haidet at [email protected].


Starring Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga and Jacob Kogan

Directed by George Ratliff

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Rated R for language and some disturbing behavior by a child

Stater rating: ***