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‘What Josiah Saw’ review: Unsettling Southern gothic tale of trauma and regret

Just as dark and wicked.

What Josiah Saw combines family drama and carefully crafted horror . After two decades, the Grahams reunite at their remote farmhouse. Josiah’s (Robert Patrick, Terminator) eldest children want to sell the place to close a haunting chapter in their lives. If only it was that simple. 

Told in chapters, the film looks at generational trauma using methodical storytelling. Things may start with dark visions, but What Josiah Saw weaves different genres into its captivating tale. Those looking for frenzied terror and gross out moments will end up being disappointed. Filmmaker Vincent Grashaw employs measured scares. 

What Josiah Saw is similar to reading a book or listening to a creepy story. The characters are rich in a way film does not always allow. They are sad and filled with regret. As unhappy as the family is they are compelling. This is thanks in no small part to a terrific cast. 

The setting adds to the gloomy atmosphere. The familiar Southern gothic tropes give an unsettling vibe to everything. What Josiah Saw deals with alienation and loss, but there is also the ongoing battle with the past. The Grahams want to move forward with their lives, but are unable to. 

If it sounds like a bummer of tale, that is because it is. What Josiah Saw is not concerned with making anyone feel better. It is rooted in the horror based around the sins of the parents and can be an extremely troubling watch at times. It is unafraid to pull off scabs to show the ugly scars that people carry with them. 

The film’s varied storytelling – the chapter about Josiah’s son Eli (Nick Stahl, Hunter Hunter) is a tonal departure that could almost be its own movie – may end up turning some away. What Josiah Saw can make for uncomfortable viewing, but it is also rewarding.

What Josiah Saw comes exclusively to Shudder August 4

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