The film introduces us to Josiah (Robert Patrick) and his son Thomas (Scott Haze). The two live on an old farm that looks rundown and worn out, and it’s quite evident that both Josiah and Thomas don’t always see eye to eye on certain matters. Josiah is a heavy drinker, while Thomas is generally shy, tries to keep to himself, and claims to have recently become a man of faith even though his father doesn’t fully support his choice of religion.
One evening, Josiah has a haunting dream which he shares with Thomas the next morning— he claims to have seen Thomas’s mother currently burning in hell. Josiah believes the vision is an opportunity for him and all the other family members to correct their past sins, saving themselves from also burning in hell. This sets in motion various events, leading to a major reunion and revealing huge secrets that haven’t surfaced for over two decades within the family.
For the sake of spoilers, I have kept the plot highly vague. Told in chapters, the film introduces various characters somehow connected to Josiah. While the pace at the start is slow, and things don’t quite make complete sense in the plot, as I hit the halfway mark, I found myself highly invested and passionate about knowing how everything would end. I’m happy to report that if viewers can keep paying attention, the film is packed with massive rewards, big reveals and a finale loaded with many shockingly unexpected moments. As the credits rolled, I found this film highly clever with its story and reveals. I began an instant rewatch, admiring the journey this film took me on. It will certainly stick with me for a long time.
As a horror film, there are many disturbing moments on-screen. The focus isn’t on gore or blood but more so highly tense scenes that are unsettling to witness. The cast are all playing characters who find themselves in horrible and dramatic situations, and performances cannot be faulted given the story and themes here. Performances all around are highly praise worthly, and I found myself applauding the big screen as I witnessed a harsh, creepy and confronting performance from actor Robert Patrick.
The soundtrack is highly pleasing for the most part. String instruments are used especially well to build unsettling moments. I can’t deny that while the musical score worked well for the most part, there were a couple of moments where I felt it was overused. I loved the visual appearance of this movie. It’s dark, grim, gritty, and most enjoyable if watched at night to fully benefit from the haunting atmosphere.
Overall, brutal, disturbing, tense, and deeply horrifying are just some of the words to best describe this film, and you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed it. It exceeded my expectations. It’s a film that begins slow and perhaps carries a vague plot at first. But if viewers can stick with it, I feel the reward is a great one. Granted, this film isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the level of suspense and unsettling tones, not to mention the multiple twists in the third act, left me feeling quite shocked, surprised, and so pleased that I instantly started a rewatch. Performances displayed here are executed with perfection, and its dark and gritty visuals wonderfully suit all that is on show. There’s not much to fault here, so I’ll just say if you are reading this review, I dare you to witness this horrifying film packed with family tragedies, secrets and sins. What Josiah Saw (2021) is Available Exclusively on Shudder on August 4th!