FrightFest '07: Joshua

This film is a mess. Masquerading as a sub-Omen/Bad Seed scary child horror film, it's really not much more than a made-for-TV movie about yuppies who can't look after their children.

The eponymous Joshua is a slightly strange child - he's gifted at playing the piano, highly intelligent, articulate, and well-read. Apparently, these signifiers point straight to "evil." And although Jacob Kogan gives it his all, Joshua doesn't actually seem to do anything in the film that's actually evil. The events in the film are triggered by the birth of his baby sister: his parents (a very shouty Sam Rockwell and a woman with obvious mental health problems that no-one in the film seems prepared to acknowledge) gives all their attention to the new baby, so Joshua starts acting out in order to win some affection.

Honestly, with the typical unreliable narrator bit going on, it's actually very hard to point to anything Joshua does during the course of the film that can actually be called evil. Sure, sometimes he's a bit creepy, and sometimes he's a bit naughty, and sometimes he's annoying, but - his parents neglect him to tend to their new baby, obviously favouring her because she's a good child whereas baby Joshua had been a bit of a handful. There are plenty of moments in which Joshua reaches out for their affection and they either ignore him or slam a door in his face. Honestly, I was rooting for the kid; when a child psychologist accuses Rockwell of abusing his child, you're presumably supposed to feel sorry for him, but it was more like he was just getting his comeuppance.

The final scene where Joshua sits at a piano and composes a love song to his gay uncle which implies he'd planned for his parents to be taken away so he could live with him is, well, troubling, to say the least. It comes off as more of a gay panic movie then, especially since all the signifiers of 'evil' in Joshua could equally be read as pointing to his homosexuality. So there's that, but really, the first problem with the film is that it's very, very dull. Nothing happens: it's not a horror movie.

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