Unpacking 'What Josiah Saw'
Vincent Grashaw’s beguiling piece of Southern Gothic chews on the oppressive grasp of belief. Plus, this week's Field Notes From Hell.
Field Notes From Hell is Deep Cuts’ weekly email digest. Dispatches go out every Sunday, with handpicked horror news, capsule reviews, and outlook on upcoming titles you can watch.
The oppressive grasp of belief in ‘What Josiah Saw’
Unfolding at a pace and with a resolve akin to those of a William Faulkner novel — if one were to deal with ghosts, the occult, and folklore — Vincent Grashaw’s What Josiah Saw doesn't exactly take the shape of a modern horror film. It’s a slow, pensive, and ultimately tragic piece of Southern Gothic that pays its languishings and indulgences in full.
Set in a deadbeat Oklahoman town, the film follows the Grahams as they each try to reconcile their traumatic pasts. Josiah (Robert Patrick), the doting patriarch and ardent nonbeliever, gets a curious visitation in his dreams, prompting him and his dog-eyed son, Thomas (Scott Haze), to “do right” by Miriam, Josiah’s wife, who according to his vision is burning in Hellfire. Meanwhile, Thomas’ siblings, twins Mary (Kelli Garner) and Eli (Nick Stahl), find themselves back home in a bid to sell their old house and hopefully finally rid the demons from their pasts.
All this happens against a setting that emboldens wild beliefs, be that Christianity, the mob, or a gypsy cult. The horror is predicated solely on people’s inability to escape the grasp of things that they believe in, making the film more complex than having a singular antagonist. And the scary parts of What Josiah Saw aren’t the sudden bursts of violence nor the laborious violin screeches (as far as this writer's concerned, those are the film’s least effective parts).
What makes What Josiah Saw work, ultimately, is the straight causality of everything in the film: debts must be paid, secrets unearthed, sins fully atoned.
Deep Cuts is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The Sandman is pretty great. I haven’t read the graphic novel, but I’m hearing from fans that this is the most un-Netflix of adaptations. And for a Netflix adaptation, I consider that a win.
It’s no spike in quality from its first pack, but at least this season of American Horror Stories has interesting (read: not lazy) ideas. This week’s “Milkmaids” confronts the COVID-19/credit-grabbing-men zeitgeist of the 2020s by telling a story about a smallpox outbreak set in the 1750s.
They/Them is a total miss. Panderous, bland, and ultimately meaningless. Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street is better.
The bloody news
Shudder is kicking off its 61-Day Halloween Event with the release of V/H/S/99, a new Edgar Allan Poe adaptation called Raven’s Hollow, an untitled Boulet Brothers project, and a whole lot more — watch the sizzle reel here.
Lauren Ambrose (Dorothy from Apple TV+’s Servant) is joining Season Two of Yellowjackets. She’s playing the adult version of Van.
Stephen King has watched Netflix’s Mr. Hannigan Phone, a production that translates his four-part novella collection If It Bleeds. And according to King, “it’s nothing short of brilliant.”
New trailers this week:
The increasingly common tech-becomes-sentient-killer trope continues in Margaux;
Luca Guadagnino’s (curiously Armie-less) cannibal romantic thriller — Bones and All — gets a 30-second teaser trailer;
The Menu serves up some curious thrills with its trailer.
Aug 17, 2022: Jordan Peele’s Nope is having its theatrical release this week in the Philippines (where I am currently).
Aug 18, 2022: Shudder is finally releasing Glorious to the world, a film that I fondly advertised as ‘Ryan Kwanten in his undies cutting deals with a Lovecraftian monster on the other side of a glory hole.’
Aug 19, 2022: Orphan: First Kill is hitting VOD shelves.
Thank you for reading Field Notes From Hell. If you like what you read, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with a friend.