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many loopholes,inconclusive script, no definite ending & overly long
Jay Harris11 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Joshua is all my summary says it all, BUT at same time one can form many opinions on the movie.

Dave Gilbert co-wrote this with director George Ratliff., The script has so many loopholes you can drive an 18 wheeler straight through & not hit anything.

This is a confusing story of an overly bright,but lonely 9 year old,he has a mind & the demeanor of a much older lad. We are led to believe many things about the boy, which may not be the truth.

Even the very last scene, which I had sort of figured out at the very beginning,still leaves many loose ends & unexplained happenings.. I loved the setting, an apartment in an older building on Centra Park West, in New York City.

The acting by the small cast is very good, Sam Rockwell & Vera Farminga are Joshua's parents. Celia Weston is Rockwell's overly religious mother. Dallas Roberts is the mothers very nice & attentive brother,He is the only one that really pays attention to his nephew.Jacob Kogan is Joshua, people in the cast think he is responsible for some bad things, I may be wrong, but I feel the boy is not really to blame. Unfortunate things do happen,

In other words this film is not very clear on many plot turns & twist, it is overly long as well.

The very last scene is neither a shock or a surprise.

A miss for me, I wish it were a better & clearer film.

ratings **1/2 (out of 4 ) 72 points (out of 100) IMDb (6 out of 7)
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Clearly not what the ignorant masses were expecting
I had been waiting quite impatiently for the release of Joshua from the moment I saw the trailer. Unlike the people who walked out of the theater, I was not disappointed. But that doesn't mean you won't be. Joshua is clearly not a movie for the everyman and it never really tries to be.

It is a story about a boy who longs to be understood by parents who choose to watch from the sidelines. The previews made the boy seem like he was just a creepy weirdo, but it becomes obvious quite quickly why he is the way he is. Joshua tells his father that he does not like soccer and baseball. In an attempt to seem open-minded and understanding, his father tells him that it's okay and that he should just do what he wants (without ever asking exactly what it is that his son wants). His mother just doesn't care as long as she's not bothered.

Dark, disturbing, creepy, but occasionally sadistically humorous, events unfold slowly (much to the dismay of people expecting shock after gratuitous shock) proving Joshua to be a far more calm and calculating boy than originally perceived. Jacob Kogan's performance is reminiscent of Haley Joel Osment in A.I. (if that character were a sadistic schemer). He is the only character who stands out and I believe this was intentional; the other characters can tell, right along with the audience, that the boy ain't quite right.

This movie is certainly not for the impatient and/or those who need to be smacked in the face repeatedly to stay awake during movies. But if you want a movie that slowly and coolly toys with your mind until the very end, Joshua will likely deliver what you are looking for.
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Strange but not too strange . . .
jdesando17 July 2007
"Cruel children, crying babies, All grow up as geese and gabies, Hated, as their age increases, By their nephews and their nieces." Robert Louis Stevenson

If you're thinking of starting a family, don't see Joshua. If you think your stockbroker spouse is a stable breadwinner capable of providing you a view of Central Park, don't see Joshua. If you think all your children will be lovable, don't see Joshua.

However, if you want the bejesus scared out of you by a kid so bright he could skip two grades and play Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 12 at recess, director George Ratliff, whose Hell House could have entitled this expert psychological thriller, has fashioned a hell of a cautionary tale about appearances and reality, unlovable kids and their clueless parents. The slow disintegration of an upper-middle class family is so carefully drawn that the first third of the film seems like a walk in the park with a few scrapes from some errant shrubbery. When, however, nine-year old Joshua Cairn (Jacob Kogan) begins missing his parents' affection, displaced to his crybaby newborn sister, strange but not too strange things happen, not easily ascribable to him.

As in most successful thrillers involving miscreant kids, even to the end is a doubt that they could be the source of the growing terror. Although comparisons to The Bad Seed and Rosemary's Baby seem fair, Kogan bears a strong resemblance to Buddy Swan, who played the young Charles Foster Kane with chilling deadpan. Kane's lifelong hang up over being separated from his family is an appropriate allusion to clarify the psychological ramifications in this film.

Although I was quite pleased with the slow exposition, because I think things unravel slowly in privileged families, the payoff ending came too quickly and without the supernatural underpinnings the buildup seemed to promise.

"Modern children were considerably less innocent than parents and the larger society supposed . . . ." David Elkind, Child Psychologist
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The Most Intelligent Horror Film Since "The Shining"
a-papke31 January 2007
This film is so good, I saw it twice at Sundance. Certainly the best at the '07 festival. Unlike modern horror films, "Joshua" does not rely upon blood and gore to deliver its impact. Director George Ratliff weaves a tale of mounting dread and tension through stunning performances, brilliant cinematography (for which it won the Sundance '07 Best Cinematography Award) and haunting music.

The premise of the film is simple and genius, a parent's worst nightmare: what would happen if your 10 yr old child felt no love for you at all? As a society we fetish-ize childhood, romanticize their innocence, deify their pure potentiality, and self-sacrifice for their unconditional love. Given our biological and societal predilection/preoccupation towards nurturing our youth, could a parent possibly even understand or recognize that their child doesn't want their love? Instead of a child beaming with unconditional love and the positive youthful energy, Joshua is an empty shell devoid of anything resembling emotion – and the effect is a chilling abomination. As a final hook, the question emerges, Is the kid bad because the parents secretly failed him somehow, or is the kid just pure evil? "Joshua" kept me entranced to the final frame.

The acting is monumental, especially Vera Farmiga who's battle with psychotic post partum depression is mind-blowingly realized. Jacob Kogan masters the thousand-mile dead eyed stare of the sociopathic titular character who steals every scene with a chilling, Mensa-like gravitas unusual in any actor, much less one so young. The music, mostly modern dissonant pieces played by Joshua on his grand piano, echoes Joshua's character: haunting and creepy yet perfectly composed and structured. The cinematography subtly changes as the film progresses, starting out colorful and normal, but then gradually growing darker, uglier and more claustrophobic, until the climax where the film looks like it was shot in Hell itself.

Like Hannibal, I found myself rooting for the "bad guy" who is a fascinating paradox: charming, talented, brilliant and self-composed but flawed to lack even the most remote shred of human empathy. I've heard a lot of comparisons to "The Omen," "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby," but these films have nothing in common with "Joshua" except that they are horror films dealing with parenthood gone awry. The horror element here is psychological, not supernatural, and it's interwoven with a great deal of social irony that makes this film much more fun to watch. Also, unlike those other films, the "problem child" in this film emerges as a fully realized personality, not just a plot device – mostly due to the great performance by Jacob Kogan, who somehow accomplishes the impossible task of being lovable and hateful at the same time. The whole thing is directed masterfully by George Ratliff who steers the film between tension and laughter to achieve a thrilling and creepy film that is intelligent and amusing – and keeps us guessing - to the end.
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Unpleasant viewing, exceptional performances.
ThrownMuse28 April 2008
This is a very strange and unconventional horror/thriller with fantastic performances by Vera Farmiga and Jacob Kogan. Usually kid actors in horror films bug me (I'm lookin' at you, new OMEN kid!), but this little dude totally creeped me out in a Martin Stephens kind of way. It's an excellent performance and one of the best things this offbeat movie has going for it. This movie's plot sounds like typical "Bad Seed" ground, but it twists and turns into really bizarre territory, disorienting the viewer to the point where you have no idea where it's going or where it's been. I'm still not sure if I even liked it, but it did make me feel incredibly uneasy, and I guess that's worth something.
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Carl Yan26 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Joshua is a very clever, smart child. A prodigy. The problem is that his nature demands perfection, but that his circumstances don't provide it:

His mother neither tries nor is able to understand his eccentricities, and doesn't genuinely care for him, giving little attention to him especially with the birth of his new born sister. This in the first place is an unhealthy sign.

His father tries to love him, but fails to meet Joshua's perfectionist standards of love. Apart from having some of his attention displaced onto the baby girl, he has one important flaw: Joshua is smarter than his dad. Joshua skips grades while his dad did not. Joshua is a prodigy on the piano while his dad listens to pop music on his earphones and doesn't notice his playing, nor his talent.

Thus he attacks his mother first, then his father. His grandmother was a means to getting his father(who is emotionally tougher than his mom); he will spare no means to carry out his revenge.

Perhaps the only person who has not neglected and ignored his talents was his uncle, who is the only one spared by Joshua.

Therefore Joshua's intelligence combined with childish revengefulness leads him to exact such a horrifying revenge. He doesn't take a knife and do bloody murder, no. He uses cold, cunning, stealthy plans to do damage. He never harms his sister, yet destroys his parents. Thus this is the cold, cunning mind of a killer in a child.

This movie is thus partly about unrecognized genius in a child. About inferior parents not understanding their child.

Joshua is a jealous kid. He knows his dad finds HIM 'weird'. He finds out he had been a troublesome baby, causing his mother great pain, this while his little sister is no trouble at all. The new baby was a relief, especially to his mother. Finally a normal child to negate the weird one.

This movie is about regress from (near) perfection to utter destruction. At the start all is perfect: everyone is cheery, relationships are in tact. Then mother goes mad. Daughter-in-law swears at mother-in-law. Dad quits job, and lands up in jail for child abuse. Relationships are torn asunder skilfully and silently by Joshua. Perhaps all this is because Josh wants perfection but doesn't get it, therefore childishly reasons that, might as well everything be destroyed.

This movie depicts civilised, educated society in its downfall. The Steinway was used by him as a tool of destruction. His knowledge of Egyptian mummies and gods fuelled his evil imagination. The book of Joshua in the bible -ironically- contributed to his desire to destroy.

This movie is also about dysfunction in civilised society: people who can't take the pressures of perfection in civilised society. Dad wants to view pornography, and flirts with his colleague, because he cannot take it. Mom cannot produce milk because she can't take it. Dad's mom looks to religion for strength to take it.
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Well made and Disturbing
shark-432 June 2008
This film has a quiet power to it and it is not like all the gore and torture porn that has been out there lately making money at the box office. Look, the masses want to be led like a toddler through most movies - lookee here - point A to point B to point C - get it? He's good, he's bad. Wow - watch that head explode. Yawn. I like gore too but I also love intelligent films that leave it to an audience that WANTS to think - that wants to be challenged and has to try and figure out what is true and what isn't. Sam Rockwell, Vera F (as the wife), Dallas Roberst as the uncle and the young kid as Joshua all give excellent performances. This is not a HORROR film in the sense of gore and supernatural crap. This is about a family swirling out of control with post partum depression, work pressure, meddling relatives, a disturbed child and a crying infant - and it is left up to us to decide what really happened. Slow, steady and ultimately, powerful. If you have patience and love well made, intense dramas - JOSHUA is for you.
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So many references! So Good!
Carlos Martinez Escalona10 October 2010
Obviously, this film was made with some other in mind. The homage it represents for films where kids played a key role in their unsettling plot is, to say the least, outstanding.

You'll find out how deeply involved with "Rosemary's Baby" it is. Or with "The Omen". I won't spill the beans here. You have to watch it. It's a horrific tale. Not a horror film with all the usual gore some want to associate the genre with. This film is horrifying in many senses. And when a film really grabs you, making you think about some personal possibilities, it has accomplished it's goal.

Joshua is a film dealing with so many things it won't disappoint. Crude, raw and cruel, but really telling. Good remake and mix of great horror films, and a new species on its own.

Performances are pretty good. Vera Farmiga is surprisingly good, as Sam Rockwell is, too. Jacob Kogan, apart from being a very good piano player, is a believable and fearsome Joshua.

Pinpoint cinematography, good plot and a very suitable script that keeps the story rolling in ways you could expect and in some others you wouldn't.

I can't believe why some people walked out theatres! There's a catch with this film for American viewers: it's eons away from American traditional movie-making. This film resembles the character exploration of Swedish and French films. So, don't expect a fast paced- spectacular glossy film. It will be a slooooow film for people who just want to have some time off with a popcorn film.
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Unfocused scripting hinders earnest production every time...
MrGKB12 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
...and "Joshua" is no exception to the rule. Leads Sam "Galaxy Quest" Rockwell and Vera "The Departed" Farmiga turn in respectable work as the harried parents of a brand new colicky baby girl, while newcomer Jacob Kogan achieves decidedly mixed results as the young son suffering from an exceptional sibling rivalry, but documentarian George "Hell House" Ratliff's vision (he co-wrote with tyro David Gilbert) lacks dramatic clarity. Syd Field would not be happy with Ratliff & Gilbert's screenplay. It takes too long to drop the hook, lacks any real tension to be a genuine thriller (despite some refreshingly unsettling music from Nico Muhly and some nice DP work from Benoît "Day Night Day Night" Debie), has little more than a few boo!s in the fright department, and ultimately fails to satisfy with its haphazard thematic explorations and ambiguous (or is it?) ending.

Young Kogan plays a creepy Stepford son gone bad, and is blessed to have the particular musical talent required by the script, but said script makes him more of a McGuffin than a character. He's one-dimensional and mostly inexplicable, so observably "different" that one wonders why his parents haven't noticed how thoroughly different he is from a normal 9-year-old. Then again, the script paints them as fairly lousy parents. The father's a workaholic, the mother's a neurotic mess; the gay uncle's the only family member who can relate to Joshua. It all adds up to one "oh, c'mon!" too many: how did things get to this sorry state in the first place? How has no one noticed just how weird Joshua is? Unfortunately, we never get an answer; Joshua remains an enigma to the end, and as a result, the audience has no sympathy for the beleaguered parents, nor any fears for the oblivious uncle.

With a tighter, more sensible script and better dialog, "Joshua" might well have been a genuine thriller. Ratliff's deliberately oblique direction and writing defang the narrative arc, however, and leave us at film's end wondering, as Peggy Lee once sang, "Is that all there is?"
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A Nutshell Review: Joshua
DICK STEEL29 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
There are kids who are adorable, and kids who just gets on your nerve. Joshua gets filed under the latter, with a creepy look to boot. No offense to child actor Jacob Kogan who gets the titular role, but when he's brooding with that psychotic glint in the eye, you just want to throw him into a cage and toss the key out of the window.

But this demonic kid pales in comparison to The Omen's Damien, although both will score high marks for their diabolical scheming mind. The latter is the devil incarnate, but Joshua turns out to be your atypical child who feels threatened by the coming of a new born sibling. You know, the jealous rage that permeates as they perceive the lack of attention and love bestowed upon them. Dad Brad Cairn (Sam Rockwell) used to be his best buddy, but Joshua feels that his own lack of athleticism might be that barrier between them, and given his personal preference for the arts like the fondness for dark musical pieces on his piano. Mom Abby (Vera Farmiga) on the other hand, turns out to be a nervous wreck, which works to Joshua's advantage in pushing the right buttons. It's revenge of the neglected kid basically.

The movie tried to be creepy with the employment of usual shock tactics seen in most horror movies, and they do feel a little out of place here, especially when it tries to position itself as a psychological thriller. It's nothing very cerebral about it, and for the most parts, its extremely slow pace brings about a sense of frustration, especially when plot loopholes, or irrational character behaviour that you'd come not to expect, gets so blatantly glossed over, thinking that audiences are idiots.

You can't help but to feel that the story development was too contrived as incidents happen too conveniently, with nary any actual resolution except toward the inevitable ending. There's nothing chilling about it, except that you now realize that smart kids do become a nightmare when they put their noodle to the test of outwitting, outplaying and outlasting their parents. Perhaps the only saving grace here is Sam Rockwell's performance as the dad who's trying to figure everything out, and at the same time protecting the new offspring from the clutches of her now demented brother.

But seriously, all Joshua requires is a good long drawn spanking from the slipper, out of the public view of course.
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when the apple's rotten...
funnylookingmonkey7 January 2008
completely mis-marketed as an Omen-type horror film, there's a lot more going on in this one than in most of the recent similar scary fare. first things first: there's no supernatural hoo-hah. (ah, so refreshing.) it's an unsettling, strangely plausible horror film... seemingly made especially for parents. a few plot elements bothered me, and i felt there was one misstep (involving a Dave Matthews song, btw!), but overall it was an effective chiller. Vera Farmiga as the increasingly imbalanced mother and Celia Weston as the holy-rolling but genuinely concerned mother-in-law are both excellent, and Sam Rockwell delivers another compelling and subtly idiosyncratic performance. George Ratliff, who directed the engrossing and discomfiting 2001 documentary, Hell House, shows promise as a narrative filmmaker.
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Criminally Underrated Psychological Thriller
jzappa6 August 2008
Joshua is a criminally underrated movie, presumably because it was marketed towards the horror crowd, the majority of which is bound not to be satisfied with it. It's not a gorefest. It's about something much more horrific. Imagine your world being manipulated by the person one would least expect, your weaknesses exploited, your reputation destroyed, the motive, the scheme, and the process never to be explained? The important thing is to see this impressively written and directed film without any substantial knowledge of the plot beforehand. It slowly unfolds, an ominous atmosphere slowly growing like a cancer.

Sam Rockwell, one of the most likable and natural contemporary actors, and Vera Farmiga, one of the most unassuming and realistic up-and-coming actresses, are perfectly cast, unlikely to be choices for a typical psychological thriller as disturbing as this one, making their drama more dramatic and disconcerting, having to do with the easily miscommunication of feelings between parents and young children.

Joshua's music score assists the the disturbing moments in this film with its brooding. The music young Joshua, a child piano prodigy, has a discernible penchant towards is very suitable dissonant classical pieces. Even the Dave Matthews song that closes the movie on its creepy, powerful final shot is a properly somber punctuation as the film leaves you blown away, having taken Rockwell's journey right along with him. George Ratliff is a very talented, promising new director who will hopefully follow up with a more appreciated film.
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Interesting failure
zetes20 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I would categorize this as an interesting failure. Jacob Kogan plays the title character, the first child of Brad and Abbie Cairn (Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga). After his baby sister is born, Joshua becomes morbid, and more than a little creepy. I love the whole evil child angle, and the fact that there is no supernatural reason for Joshua's behavior makes it even more horrifying. Unfortunately, Ratliff and co-writer David Gilbert haven't written a good enough script to support their idea. While there is no supernatural reason given for Joshua, the kid is so odd and seemingly beyond his own years that I think some viewers will end up supplying their own. I never really bought the character. He ends up almost paper-thin, like there's nothing behind his wickedly blank face. I wouldn't say that Jacob Kogan gives a good performance here, but he certainly has the look of utter wickedness about him. There are other fatal flaws, as well. Sam Rockwell is a little too broad, and comes off as almost comedic. This is especially true in the final half-hour, after Rockwell's character has begun to expect his son of being malicious. I shouldn't be giggling at the whole concept – this is where some true horror should arise. But Rockwell's reaction to his son's evil is almost comical, and I'm not entirely sure it's unintentional. Particlarly awful is the scene where Rockwell hires a child psychologist to examine Joshua. That whole bit was patently ridiculous: the woman deduces after approximately twelve seconds (she looks at one drawing) that Joshua is being abused. And she tells Rockwell instantly! You'd think if she really thought he was abusing his son, she'd play it more subtly and, you know, call child services or something. That scene is pretty unforgivable. There are, on the other hand, several very good sequences. I especially liked the bit where Joshua gets his mother to step on some broken glass. And that scene where the kid mocks his father for mourning their dead dog – which Joshua killed, of course – is chilling.
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A great old-school horror movie
karmela3 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Sick of too much gore and too little plot? Longing for a smart and scary movie in the mold of "Don't Look Now"? Well,here comes the movie you're going to enjoy. In great tradition of "bad seed" sub-genre, George Ratliff's well-written, aptly executed, wonderfully acted movie is a gasp of fresh air among today's typical, dumb, in-your-face, gore-saturated horror flicks. Although there's no supernatural element involved, the mood is genuinely scary: the intensity relies mostly on great script, truly great acting (hats off for great Vera Farmiga, really amazing as a troubled mother -- but the rest of the cast also does an absolutely terrific job!)and on smart, well-balanced directing. There's no shockers here, no pools of dripping blood - just a weird kid with auburn hair and unsettling gaze and a spooky huge Fifth Avenue apartment, which reminded me a little bit about Dakota suite of "Rosemary's Baby"... and it works, big time. And it gets even better: the director achieved a great balance between spookiness and wonderful, off-beat humor (much of it is especially tasty for New Yorkers, but I'm sure the rest of the world would enjoy it, too) - a touch of tongue-in-cheek stuff makes the movie even more enjoyable. Most importantly, "Joshua" is a great story about troubles and insecurities of modern day parenting and revolves around the theme rarely picked up by movie writers, especially not in the horror genre - namely the fact that there's no golden recipe for a perfect child. The title character is even scarier by the fact there's nothing that would explain his meanness: quite the opposite, his privileged childhood in a loving home of dedicated parents had all markings of a perfect setting for happiness and success. I'm sure it'll resonate with anyone who ever had or even contemplated bringing up baby in today's complicated world. It certainly scared me, amused me -- and got me thinking. Great job!
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Frightening and Disturbing
Claudio Carvalho2 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In Manhattan, the successful stockbroker Brad Cairn (Sam Rockwell) and his beautiful wife Abby (Vera Farmiga) are celebrating their newborn daughter Lily in their new fancy apartment with Brad's mother Hazel (Celia Weston) and Abby's brother, the artist Ned Davidoff (Dallas Roberts). Their extremely intelligent and talented nine year-old son Joshua (Jacob Kogan) is feeling neglected and jealous of Lily, trying to attract more attention from his parents and relatives. When the baby is nineteen days old, she starts to uninterruptedly crying, driving Abby to a nervous breakdown. Meanwhile the family's dog dies and Brad asks for vacation to stay with Lily and Joshua. When Joshua goes to the museum with his grandmother and Lily, Brad accidentally watches a videotape in his camera and finds Joshua forcing Lily to cry. Brad runs to the museum and he sees Joshua with Hazel in the top of the stairs and in the next moment Hazel dropping down the stairs and dying. Brad concludes that Joshua pushed Hazel and is hurting Lily but the evidences show another reality.

The impressive"Joshua" is one of the most frightening and disturbing movies I have recently seen. The story is not graphic or gore, but the psychological horror is comparable to movies like "Rosemary's Baby", "The Omen" or "The Shinning", supported by awesome performances and direction. Jacob Kogan and Vera Farmiga are amazing with Sam Rockwell also excellent. This is the first movie of George Ratliff that I watch and I am impressed how this director was able to make this suspenseful movie with a potential of a future classic with a low budget and without any special effects. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Joshua, o Filho do Mal" ("Joshua, the Son of the Evil")
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A 9 year old kid, bright and manipulative, plots against his family after the birth of their newborn girl.
James-263113 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As a very open minded movie enthusiast, i would not recommend this movie to anyone other than to those people who watch entirely too many movies, no disrespect intended. (So used to seeing typical Hollywood filth over and over again, that any plot out of the norm with good performances is an instant classic.. )

Don't get me wrong there is tons of filth in Hollywood film, and it is nice to see someone do something different: But this movie just made me angry. Not because i was so captured by the film and the hatred for Joshua, but angry that i wasted my time watching it.


Joshua is a 9 year old boy, who is very smart, demonic, advanced.. OK. well, this is the thing it is just not believable that a kid with no real mistreatment of any kind would go to such great lengths, not to mention be able to devise plans in such complexity to destroy his family... C'mon. (Over jealousy of his newborn sister...)

His father is a upper middle class businessman who just wants things to be peaceful.. He is a wimp! Your son is a crazy sociopath... If it was my kid and i knew what he had done just as the father knew what Joshua had done, i would shackle his hands and feet and chain him to the backseat of the car and take him to a juvenile center or a psyche ward etc. I would go through the necessary steps, and i would sit down with the appropriate people and inform them of his behavior and that he is a danger to anyone that comes near him, he needs to be isolated and evaluated, then i would leave. I would just rather dispose of the kid.. But the wife might never forgive me. If he broke out, i would find him and bury him before he got anywhere near my family... What other options are there?

Personal Irritation:

The dad and Joshua go at it like they are teenage rivals or something? The dad never really parented the kid from day one so it is understandable that he would act like they are mentally deep into a battle, so that is true to character in the film, but just annoyed me. What ever happened to: Discipline, or a sore behind!

All in all my issue is that it is just not believable and the movie seems to portray the situation like it is a common or real problem that could happen to anyone...Until then, all of you glorifying this movie should be making better use of your time.

Until someone shows me that a child can be inherently evil without reason and/or cause i will not believe it.

*Again this is just my opinion, and don't mean to step on anyones toes. But honest reviews are what this site is all about, and these are my thoughts after seeing "Joshua."

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An very good movie but not easy to watch
UETF-agent9 April 2011
I think I understand why some people didn't like this movie or even walked out of the theater. Actually I almost stopped watching it myself because of the soundtrack. There is a constant piano being played in the background and many, many scenes of people crying and shrieking very loudly, and although this does a wonderful job adding to the creepiness of the movie, it made me physically uneasy and a bit nauseous. That said, this is a terrific movie, at the center of several genres without completely falling into either, my favorite part is how at the end of the movie, you're left with many questions unanswered and you start making your own theories. For example I'm sure that a lot of people will have a few things to think about the boy's uncle. Everything is drawn with very subtle touches here. So yeah, although this movie is difficult to watch, it is in my opinion a real classic, and a must see for the terror amateurs.
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Is "Joshua" the new Damien?
Sarah2 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Back in the golden age of the twenties and thirties, members of Hollywood and beyond started to tire of romantic backdrops and innocent comedies. We started to see pain, hurt, and hell, even death (not to blotch hell because let's face it, it's pretty scary, too). But when "Nosferatu" went back into his little boat after a long day's work, and "The Swamp Thing" started to notice his fingers were losing their prune, directors started looking around them for the next big scare. And after coming home after a long day of their own work of horror, they found this in the shining faces of their miniatures.

Because let's face it, kids are pretty scary.

"The Omen" followed the offspring of Satan as he wrecked havoc upon his unsuspecting mother. But when the seventies were over, so was Damien's heyday. He started to notice that "Hey, people have known about folks like me for two thousand years and survived. What's so scary about that?" Director's and producers had seen it, too-- demonic children just weren't the way to go anymore. All this superstitious nonsense were pushing audience members to do their civic duty and cry out at the 60' heroes on their local theater screens to "just grab the cross and say a little prayer. The apocalypse will be evaded and I can get my ten dollars back!"

Writers were starting to realize that fairy tales weren't cutting it because spending the time to make people believe that a world like theirs actually existed only left about ten minutes for the plot. So they looked at the world around them, read a couple of books, and realized, "Holy crap. I live in a really messed up world...

"Let's mess it up some more and make a feature!"

"Joshua" is just such a film. Starting out as an independent film and later swooped up by FOX Searchlight, this little delectable piece of psychologic drama is the chocolate on the pillow in the dirty motel room of child-based horror. While the writing seems just a little too sweet to fit in with the likes of its B-movie shelf mates, "Joshua" seems to feel right at home, a gem in the long wait for a smart, new blockbuster.

Following the very quick transition from delivery room to home life, the film keeps a close watch on its title character (taken by film youngster, Jacob Kogan) as he silently criticizes the change that has been laid on his family since his baby sister was born. Something felt different. They acted strangely, not as they had acted with him when he was a newborn babe.

They seem... happy.

Things start to seem amiss, naturally, but what makes one quiver with delight is the very slow progression of Joshua's young mind and the connection it may have with his mother's developing madness. The writers have refrained from placing the boy a champion villain from the start: he struggles to completely fall over into his violent jealousy, almost as if he's looking behind his shoulder and asking, "Are you sure you don't want me to play nicely?"

But the nine-year-old's striking debut performance is not alone in its subtly, but rather surrounded by an equally as quiet and brilliant cast. The mother and father (a warm and fuzzy Sam Rockwell and the gorgeous Vera Farmiga) share a transition from blind love to heart-stopping fear that is harsh and heartbreaking in its reality. After all, wouldn't it hurt you a little if your blossoming prodigy killed your dog? At least, it seems that way. We're not quite sure. He walked him, but then...

These uncertainties follow us throughout the film. We of course assume he has done these things, and the mother with us, so naturally, if we had been in the film with them, we would have been thrown into the psychiatric wing, too. The remainder of the cast still feels that darkness near them and wonder at a dangerous possibility that their young boy, while strange and brilliant beyond his years, may not be as wonderful as they had hoped.

What's unfortunate is that the film's shine is tarnished by its writers' lack of invention. Joshua has a brilliant mind and is inventive in his ploys to disband each family member, one by one. But when it comes to a good jolt, all we ever seeing is "The Amazing Appearing Child!" Standing in doorways, just down the hall-- it's the same shot over and over again, and really, with how well things were going in every other aspect, I start to wonder if someone simply got bored? Were the deadlines too close? Was it a requirement that FOX sent out in an email, warning them if they did not succumb to at least five "jumpy appearances" every hour, they would revoke their theater rights?

No one knows, but suffice it to say, it was hard to focus on this downfall. Things just kept surprising and horrifying us, and let's face it, ignoring the deep ache in our stomachs at the thought that one of our children could easily be another Joshua was just a little bit too difficult to handle. This wasn't a blood sucking vampire or demon spawn. In reality, there was nothing awesome about this child at all. And that is exactly what frightens us. There is absolutely no telling how a child's life will unfold.

So when you go home tonight, hug your children tight until their little eyes bulge, and be sure to beat them in the race to say, "I love you." Or don't be surprised when they don't return the favor.

And, uh... has anyone seen the dog?
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This movie kicks mighty arse!
BohemianFilmmaker22 January 2007
Just saw this at Sundance tonight, and I just have to say that this film is a thriller of great proportions. I don't think I had such a feeling of dread while watching a film since the first time I saw Psycho.

Great writing + Interesting directing = Good times.

This film is going to polarize people, but who cares. It's so taut and suspenseful, with the acting god Sam Rockwell rockin' the gifts that the mighty Apollo gave him from Zeus's hand, this is a must see film.

As one guy said during the Q&A: "This is the first time I've wanted to throw up watching a movie and it was good thing." I know I haven't said much about the film, but that's the idea. I want people to go in not knowing anything. I don't think I've had this much fun at a film like this since... forever.
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Smart and creepy
McGonigle31 January 2007
This is a smart psychological horror film. An upscale NYC couple bring home their new baby and their older child -- a nine-year-old boy prodigy -- starts acting extremely creepy as suspicious accidents and odd behavior increase. Director George Ratliff creeps you out without any significant blood or gore, making this movie a lot more like Rosemary's Baby than, say, The Omen. With a smart script and great performances by everyone, including Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga and the kid playing Joshua, the only downside to this movie is a rushed "and-then-it-ends" anti-climax that I found unsatisfying. Still, this is worth a look if you like scary movies.
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sonofgodtrujesus23 July 2007
I can't believe the overall rating on this film was a paltry 6.0, thus it's obviously up to me to do all that is in my power to make sure this film get to at least a 6.5, or more on IMDb, seeing that this number represents my cut off point for what I'll view on film; unless, of course, I've seen the film and fallen in love with it before I've visited IMDb, then, my personal rating cut off point trumps IMDb, and I won't feel like I've just wasted 2 hours, the time it takes watch a movie while stuffing my face with popcorn. Joshua is one of those movies which I fell in love with at the theater, watching it twice, just because I wanted to see the closing scene just one more time.

This movie seriously reminded of a type of Exorcist but without the supernatural agency of evil and special effects which at times can confuse and reduce the art of film making to an amusement park theme. Joshua was just pure evil; no let me rephrase: If you ever wanted to know what pure evil is then Joshua represents the carbon copy definitive energy vibration of such a manifestation. Joshua, in time will be a cult classic, only its so dark I doubt if it will ever go mainstream, due to the fact that it utterly demonizes a certain group in our society, which I'm sure do not want the added label of masochistic & sadists.

Truly one of the most vulgar movies I've ever seen. Jacob Kogan did a spectacular job. I cant tell you how many times I wanted to kick some anti rational sense into this child until love manifested; first rate acting - my blood ran cold. Kogan should do some pretty good work if he can keeps his personality and mind together through puberty; a truly wonderful recruit to the film badboys, yea, weze baby, bop bop bop! The psychological dynamics of this film is what I found most interesting. the fact that a child can learn just about anything in our society even Sun Tzu warfare and complete dysfunctional passionate obsession, but not love, is the one great symbolic message in Joshua which rings true and resonated on my psyche most after watching this film. My new cut off for viewing films is 6.1 on IMDb thanks to Joshua.
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A cartoony mess
D A2 January 2008
Cheesy fight flick tries to bask in the horrific glory which was once Rosemary's Baby and The Omen, but ends up feeling like The Good Son instead. Conceptually, Joshua could have had a lot going for it. Sibling rivalry, which formed the basis of this far-fetched tension, is as good a plot device as any to further the suspense, and at times the darkened bedroom scares elicited from the script do effectively make viewers hold there breath. These moments are so few and far between however, that the inherent comedy beneath this half-baked excursion begins to seep out at an alarming rate, climaxing with one of the worst end scenes in recent memory.

Mainly the scares fail because the lead character, this evil child whom we are supposed to fear, just comes across as silly and unrealistic in nearly every scene. Though his parents might have helped sustain certain scenes a little more (Vera Farmiga in particular stands out as the depressed mother), lead Jacob Kogan is simply unequipped to deliver his role in convincing fashion. From his demeanor to his dress, Joshua is written like a cardboard cutout stereotype of the young eccentric evil genius to a tee, almost always opting for bland, misjudged characterization as opposed to any sort of real personality that might have in fact provided a believable fright.
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I want my 106 minutes back
cyberdan-12 August 2008
The acting is mechanical. There are no believable relationships in the entire film. Vera Farmiga is the only one in the entire project that seems to put any effort into it. It was kind of like watching a play with a single cast member on stage with a dozen cardboard stand-ups.

Do not even begin to compare Jacob Kogan with Haley Joel Osment, it's insulting. THIS FILM IS NOT A "BIZARRE SIXTH SENSE" type film. It's just bizarre. And by bizarre, I mean it's not worth watching.

Really really bad audio. I suggest Mr. Ratliff use more than one solitary boom mic for the entire film. Oh, and sound recording software more advanced than say, windows sound recorder.

Dropped story lines. Unexplained plot elements. Abrupt meaningless ending. 6.0 of 10? The movie does not even live up to it's own tag line. are you kidding me? I give it a 2. (one on each hand; guess which one.)

Mr. Ratliff appears to have adopted the mantra of every amateur filmmaker in Europe:

1) If I just leave things out, it automatically becomes mysterious 2) the moviegoer will be forced to fill in the missing pieces 3) relieving me as a writer and director the burden of having any talent 4) use the tried-and-fail method of the abrupt and ambiguous ending so everyone thinks that all the foregoing shortcomings were intentional

Of course Sundance liked this one, because this is typical faux snob fare. Pretend that something ridiculous is actually meaningful, and everyone thinks you see something deeper than there actually is, and hopefully that will make you look sophisticated while everyone else becomes insecure because they don't understand as much as apparently you do. Furrow your brows and try to look slightly saddened, to add to the effect. If your vacuity catches up to you, just explain that you were "lost in thought" and shamble hurriedly away.

No. There is no deeper, profound meaning here. Just a poorly written, poorly directed script that fails in every aspect. Don't let Sundance or the Eurotrash snobliks fool you.

SKIP THIS ONE and re-watch the original Exorcist, which is infinitely better, and which Ratliff would do well to watch 666 times in a row before he tries anything 'scary' again.

I apologize for ranting, but I am seriously irritated that the cable channel guide gave this one 3/5 stars, so I wasted an hour and forty minutes waiting for it to earn even one star. I really want my 106 minutes back.

Finally thought of something positive about this film. After seeing what kind of miserable trash actually gets produced, I'm inspired to write scripts now, because I know I write far better material than this.
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This is a really good disturbing little thriller.
Lucien Lessard17 May 2008
Joshua (Jacob Kogan) is a intelligent 9 year-old boy, who starts to feel left out. When his baby sister Lily is born, since it brings joy to his parents Brad (Sam Rockwell) and Abby (Vera Farmiga). When weeks has passed, the baby Lily can't stop crying and especially at nights. Which Abby turns depressing and she trying her best to raise her child. Since her husband works often in the city. Then the parents slowly realized that Joshua is changing and not for the better. Especially when Joshua starts to realized that his parents are not the loving couple, they seems to be and he is planning something sinister for his family.

Directed by George Ratliff made an fascinating creepy little thriller that is well-acted (Especially by Kogan & Farmiga as Joshua's long-suffering mother), well directed and it has some enjoyable suspenseful moments. This is an interesting character study of what it seems to be a happy family that goes terribly wrong. This has good supporting performances by Dallas Roberts as Abby's worried gay brother and Celia Weston as Brad's overly-proud religious mother. I haven't a creepy looking child like Kogan's performance in a long time and he is certainly eerie at times. But the movie does have its problems towards the last 20 minutes, which its raises more questions than answers. But it is one of those movies, you want to see again. It's certainly one of the most underrated films of 2007. Don't miss it. Written by David Gilbert and by the director:Ratliff. (****/*****).
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An apparent superdad is surrounded by psychotic and really annoying family members.
apiedi7 July 2007
In my life as a moviegoer I have actually managed to sit through such ridiculously bad pictures as say, Battlefield Earth, or Driven... Well, I walked out on Joshua and made it a point to both get my money back and write this comment. Never happened to me before. The people that made this film just managed to make me angry for the time I was in the theater (I did sit through at least one painful hour) and another good half hour after that. If you care to experience the same emotions I'd strongly recommend it. It's as if the director made it a point to build up artificially tense moments that never lead to anything. Nothing actually happens in this film. To me, it felt like a pretentious attempt at making an intellectual thriller. What's worse is that it's not bad because they made mistakes or because it is poorly executed, it's bad because of deliberate choices. What a waste of good talent...
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