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Fox Home Entertainment presents
“I’ll give you five dollars if you let me throw a rock at you.”
DVD ReviewWe’ve seen our fair share of creepy kids in the movies. These miniature psychopaths have shown up in both versions of The Omen, the Macaulay Culkin vehicle The Good Son, and, in a more existential sense, with Nicole Kidman in the underrated Birth. The latest addition to this strange subgenre, 2007’s Joshua, appeared to be headed for a major theatrical run, but it only made it to a total of 49 screens during a release that barely lasted a month. So, Fox is giving it another go at gaining an audience for this psychological thriller via this spiffy new DVD release.
Brad Cairns (Sam Rockwell) and his wife Abby (Vera Farmiga) are celebrating the birth of their daughter Lily. They do so with some trepidation, however, as the early months of life for their nine-year-old boy, Joshua (Jacob Kogan), were full of little other than non-stop crying and parental frustration. After a few peaceful days of enjoying the newborn, she begins to become as fussy as Joshua was at her age, if not worse. Joshua begins exhibiting extremely strange behavior himself. Whether this is a result of jealousy towards Lily or an early sign of a mental health problem is a question Brad and Abby are soon struggling with. The answer could wreck their family beyond repair.
Among other things, early on, we’re treated to one of the creepiest renditions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star ever played on a piano, as Joshua has a penchant for tickling the ivories whenever he can. The entire film shows a flair that many of Hitchcock’s finest posses, especially on the visual front. Some nifty camera work and gorgeous cinematography elevate the spooky feel of things, even when the overly familiar script can’t. Fortunately, the writing is generally solid, keeping us guessing throughout as to what Joshua is trying to accomplish and the true level of his mental stability. The young Kogan is sharp and effective as the title character; the young boy gives a surprisingly mature, confident performance. Rockwell seems a bit out of place here, and Farmiga makes it far too easy, from the get-go, to forecast the direction her character will take when all is said and done.
There’s some truly unbelievable stuff here—why in the world would this seemingly happy couple keep such disturbing home videos of when Joshua was an infant? This baby simply would not stop crying and Abby appears near-suicidal during this period, both situations that no one would want to remember, let alone immortalize on film. Plus, no responsible adult, especially a grandparent, would leave a nine-year-old (and a damn spooky one at that) alone with an infant to use the restroom in a public place. The end result of this sequence is the movie’s first big shocker, but such a stretch in believability decreases the impact of an important plot development.
In the end, we get a pseudo explanation for Joshua’s behavior, but we’re still left scratching our heads. The final song that he plays for his uncle seem to clear things up, but the lyrics really only bring a bunch of plot holes immediately to the forefront. Still, this is truly spooky stuff, and if you completely immerse yourself and buy into the rest of the film, the ending really does work, in sort of an M. Night Shyamalan way. While it can’t come close to touching any of his films, it’s clear with Joshua that director George Ratliff has a method to his madness, and I, for one, am looking forward to his next project.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this great transfer benefits the film’s stunning cinematography. The images are sharp and very detailed, and softness is kept to a minimum. The colors are bright, while shadow and contrast levels are consistently true throughout. There is some grain and dirt, but nothing that becomes a major distraction.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: There’s both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS track, with the latter getting the slight edge due to deeper, more aggressive bass and a slightly more active sound field. Both tracks feature nice directional effects and realistic ambient sounds. Dialogue is nice and clear, blending in well with the other audio elements in both mixes.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sunshine, Lake Placid 2, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, The Tripper, Cover
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer/Director George Ratliff and Writer David Gilbert.
Packaging: Keep Case
There are also interviews with Jacob Kogan, Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Ratliff, producer Johnathan Dorfman, and production designer Roshelle Berliner. Totaling just over 12 minutes, quite a few topics are covered, including Kogan’s efforts to learn the piano, Rockwell on the dynamics of his character, and Ratliff on the movie’s darkly humorous elements.
We get five minutes of footage from the movie’s internet advertising campaign, along with three minutes from Kogan’s audition. There’s also a music video for Fly by Dave Matthews, five deleted scenes that run for almost seven minutes, the theatrical trailer for Joshua, as well as a look at other Fox releases.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsThe little-seen 2007 thriller Joshua is appealing for those who like their horror films challenging. While some of the performances are hit-or-miss, strong debut work by young Jacob Kogan holds a spotty script together. Fox’s DVD is a nice effort, complete with impressive audio and video and with a handful of interesting supplemental features.
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