Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘What Josiah Saw’ reigns holy terror on your nerves.

WHAT JOSIAH SAW

After two decades, a damaged family reunite at their remote farmhouse, where they confront long-buried secrets and sins of the past.


As a child forced to attend Catholic school for eight years, I know a little something about the trauma religion imprints on a young mind. Irrational guilt dwells in my brain to this day. Director Vincent Grashaw’s staggering third feature, What Josiah Saw, delves into how zealous behavior and extreme dysfunction go hand in hand. A portrait of a family’s unspeakable darkness and how it haunts them forever. It is a film that will consume your soul.

Kelli Garner‘s vulnerability as Mary is a stunning turn. With a palpable fear, Garner leaves it all on-screen in an unapologetic performance. Her arc is astonishing. Nick Stahl scared the Jesus out of me most recently in Hunter Hunter. As Eli, Stahl maneuvers past sins with an anxious undercurrent. Like Garner, the emotional journey of Eli will leave you blindsided.

Robert Patrick plays Graham family patriarch, Josiah. His monstrous behavior appears superficially enabled by newfound holy retribution that looks a whole hell of a lot like dogmatic abuse. Patrick’s innate ability to intimidate with as little as a whisper is terrifying. This performance drips with brutal vitriol.

Scott Haze hit the ground running in James Franco‘s Child of God. That part was a brilliant warm-up to playing the role of a traumatized, devoted son. Haze’s character is the final human whipping post on that farm. He breathes life into the part of Thomas, as every beat is a complete journey. The chemistry between Patrick and Haze is electric. 

Carlos Ritter‘s cinematography reflects an ominous mood. He takes advantage of shadows and natural light to create a visual eerieness. Robert Pycior‘s score makes your skin crawl. Writer Robert Alan Dilts‘ screenplay unfolds in chapters. What Josiah Saw could have been developed into a series. Dilts created fully fleshed-out characters. There is that much life in this story. The script’s structure also allows the audience to focus on each Graham family member and their demons. Everyone teetering on the edge of a potential psychotic break. The repeated visual of each character gazing out the farmhouse window is striking. Its cyclical pattern is sheer brilliance.

Each of these elements creates a visceral disquiet that is unshakable for the nearly two-hour run. What Josiah Saw was relentlessly unnerving. The stakes get higher and higher. I had to remind myself to breathe. It is impossible to think Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences saw this story coming. The final act is so twisted it will blow your mind, again and again. What Josiah Saw is an unexpected, complex, and shocking watch. It is hands down, the best horror film of the year.


Director:
Vincent Grashaw
Screenwriter:
Robert Alan Dilts
Producer:
Ran Namerode, Vincent Grashaw, Bernie Stern, Angelia Adzic
Cast:
Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Scott Haze, Kelli Garner, Tony Hale, Jake Weber


Review: IFC Midnight’s ‘Hunter Hunter’ is one of the most intense films of 2020.

HUNTER HUNTER

HUNTER HUNTER follows a family living in the remote wilderness earning a living as fur trappers. Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan), and their daughter Renée (Summer H. Howell) struggle to make ends meet and think their traps are being hunted by the return of a rogue wolf. Determined to catch the predator in the act, Joseph leaves his family behind to track the wolf. Anne and Renée grow increasingly anxious during Joseph’s prolonged absence and struggle to survive without him.  When they hear a strange noise outside their cabin, Anne hopes it is Joseph but instead finds a man named Lou (Nick Stahl), who has been severely injured and left for dead. The longer Lou stays and Joseph is away, the more paranoid Anne becomes, and the idea of a mysterious predator in the woods slowly becomes a threat much closer to home.

The contentious relationship between Devon Sawa and Camille Sullivan is what makes the initial framework of this film so intriguing. With Anne longing for more traditional stability for her family, Joe thrives in the wilderness. Trapping is just not meeting their monetary needs any longer. With their daughter Renee to protect, they are in for a bigger surprise than running out of food and a rogue wolf on the prowl. Hunter Hunter goes to a place so dark, you won’t be able to get it out of your head.

The survivalist and tracker methods ring true. Sawa, who has been churning out films the past few years, once again holds the audience captive with his presence. I’ve stated before that his talent is often overlooked. His commitment to a role is stellar and he’s a lovely human in real life. Here his portrayal of Joe is steadfast and loyal, with a side of heroic intention. His chemistry with Summer H. Howell as daughter Renee is a touch reminiscent of Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace. Howell gives a “raised off the grid”, tough as nails, but thoroughly innocent age-appropriate performance. It’s just right. Nick Stahl and Devon Sawa in one movie together, have made my schoolgirl fantasies a reality… in the most satisfying, genre nerd girl way. Stahl is downright scary. You can read the unspoken backstory he’s given himself in his posture and gaze. It’s startling.

Camille Sullivan has been written as a fully nuanced woman, forced to activate her Mother Bear instincts. The power she brings to this film is unmatched. This cast has to not only contend with a terrifying script but the elements of filming in the wilderness. I have so many questions since the credits rolled but the mystery that remains isn’t even relevant when the screen goes black. You are simply left in shock.

That sharp turn in the plot blows up everything you think you know about how this story will end. Your heart will be in your throat for the final 3rd. Writer/director Shawn Linden has given us one of the most disturbing films of 2020. The utter carnage, both emotional and physical, inflicted on this cast is brutal. The visceral horror of that befalls the viewer is skin-crawling and nausea-inducing. Hunter Hunter is complex and precisely crafted. Camille Sullivan‘s performance will go down as one of the most iconic final girls, ever.

STARRING:

Devon Sawa – Nick Stahl – Camille Sullivan – Summer Howell

DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY:

Shawn Linden

IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DIGITAL & ON DEMAND – DECEMBER 18, 2020