Joshua (2007)

Rating: C+

Dir: George Ratliff
Star: Sam Rockwell, Jacob Kogan, Vera Farmiga, Celia Weston

Brad (Rockwell) and Abby (Farmiga) bring a new bundle of joy home, to join their New York apartment family, and provide a sister to nine-year old Joshua (Kogan). He’s an odd little kid, a perfectly-mannered and impeccably-coiffed, piano-playing prodigy, with the apparent ability to materialise out of thin air. Basically, he’s the kind of person for whom “it’s always the quiet ones,” might have been coined, and that becomes abundantly clear in the scene where he practices the ancient Egyptian art of mummification on his teddy-bear.

When Abby starts to spiral into the same post-natal depression that plagued her after Joshua’s birth – and looking at the kid now, one wonders why she didn’t immediately get the gates to her ovarian factory closed and barred – it gives Joshua the opportunity to make his move. What is his plan? And will Brad be able to find out in time to stop it? This is one of those cases where the audience is well ahead of the script, and by the time Brad realises he has spawned Satan, we have just about lapped him entirely – denial is not just the river alongside which the ancient Egyptian art of mummification was practiced.

For the first hour, the real horror is mostly to be found in wailing infants; this should be required viewing, of the “See what you have to look forward to?” kind, for anyone thinking about starting a family. While most of the performances are solid, the film really needed more ambiguity to sustain itself; perhaps Ratliff should have focused on the disintegrating sanity of Abby to add the necessary uncertainty. As is, it’s only in the final reel where everyone is on the same page and things kick in to gear.