Fantasia 2021: What Josiah Saw is a slow-burning southern gothic horror

What Josiah Saw - Randomix Productions/Fantasia
What Josiah Saw - Randomix Productions/Fantasia /

The following is a spoiler-free review of the Fantasia Fest film What Josiah Saw.

Everything about the Fantasia Festival film What Josiah Saw drips with death, decay, and trauma, almost like a Cormac McCarthy novel but heavy on the southern gothic elements. There is something literary and contemplative about this film from Vincent Grashaw, who goes all-in on this bleak and somber tale of a family plagued by generations of unspoken horror.

Some might feel like getting through the first half of What Josiah Saw is a chore, although I never felt less than gripped while watching this film because all of the actors are top-notch and even in the film’s more tedious moments, I still felt compelled to keep watching.

Taking place in a town as dead and dry as a field of corn husks, What Josiah Saw weaves together three vignettes of a family torn asunder by the skeletons in their closet and the sins that weigh heavily on their minds.

At its heart, this film plunges its fist into the cavernous and insidious quality of childhood trauma. What happens when you leave that darkness to rot and spread for decades?

What Josiah Saw
What Josiah Saw – Randomix Productions/Fantasia /

What Josiah Saw is riveting and will leave you breathless

Parts of this movie feel like they’re toeing the line between being exceptional and pretentious. But it’s the performances, cinematography, Grashaw’s directing, and the haunting film score that form the glue of this feature.

I think this film could be polarizing due to its slow pacing and heavy content, but What Josiah Saw is a powerful movie that will leave you breathless. It takes a lot of big swings, and just about all of them land. It’s hard to describe the film without using the word “riveting,” because that is genuinely how I felt throughout its entire (long) runtime.

Don’t go into this expecting something that you’ve seen before because the very DNA of Grashaw’s film is composed of something raw, primal, and utterly repulsive (in the best way), and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen this year, at least, for sure.

Score: A-

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