At first glance, there’s enough interest gathered from the cast of What Josiah Saw alone, with two of the top-billed actors Robert Patrick and Nick Stahl, and even Jake Weber in a supporting role. Each of them do a fair amount of heavy lifting on screen, pulling out all the stops to generate interest out of their characters and not isolate them to two-dimensional representations. The premise is also one that further builds intrigue, placing a family reuniting at their farmhouse, after a lucrative offer is placed on it, but why have they become so estranged from one another? And what secrets do they hope to remain buried?
Each member of the family is awarded their own chapter of the storyline before the afore-mentione coming together at the farmhouse. It starts with the father, Josiah (Patrick) and his son Thomas (Scott Haze), the latter appears to be trying to look after the upkeep of the abode, but there is something aloof about the way the two engage with one another that doesn’t quite fit, which becomes all too apparent by the films’ conclusion.
The middle chapter and possibly the most intriguing has another son, Eli (Stahl) who is caught up with questionable characters and is charged with two other guys to visit some gypsy folk; a moment that comes to a whole heap of trouble for Eli.
Lastly, we’re introduced to the daughter, Mary (Kelli Garner) and her partner, Ross (Tony Hale), who have been struggling to have children of their own and are in the throes of finalising an adoption process.
As each chapter unfolds, serving as a means to build up and embellish each character, but these windows into their lives so far trudge along at a snail’s pace without any clear direction or purpose. Other than to allow the final moment to unfold. For what it’s worth this final moment when it arrives is well placed and with a powerful punchline, but it’s a damn painful ride to get there. For some, they would have tuned out long before this takes place.
There is plenty of promise set up in What Josiah Saw, with a solid cast and a definitive approach to the storytelling.
The problem arises through its slow interplay as it tries to develop the characters, ordinarily a good thing, but this is painfully slow and interest wanes quite quickly.
A shame, as the last scene is a decent and dramatic conclusion.
What Josiah Saw is streaming on Shudder ANZ from Thu Aug 4th.
25 years ago, before Scream would reawaken the horror genre and generate a plethora of like minded movies came a film that tapped wholly into my adolescent brain. I’ll let you decide which part of the brain from which I am referring. Needless to say, Fairuza Balk’s Nancy stirred something inside me that yearned for and connected with females who drifted outside the mainstream of what was considered “normal”.
Recently, The Craftwas given new life in the public eye thanks to its sequel of sorts, The Craft: Legacyreleased by Blumhouse last year, but somehow it failed to ignite the same passion as the original.
Some of this could easily be put down to its strong, young cast with the afore-mentioned Fairuza playing the main antagonist to Robin Tunney’s white witch, Sarah in what is essentially a coming of age teen-drama. Joining these two are also Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, and Christine Taylor, who all essentially lift what comes across as a medicroe tale when reviewed through today’s eyes.
It still however holds a strong place in my heart, despite its flaws and molded my love of 90s teen horror as a result. What can I say, it’s my achilles heel.
It helps that swiftly following TheCraft came the behemoth of Teen Slasher films… Screamdirected by the great, Wes Craven. It also boasted two of the movie’s stars in Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich whose careers were rightfully projected to stardom as a result.
Scream is now the stuff of legend with its meta representation of the horror franchise and again boasted an awesome cast with Courtney Cox, David Arqette, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy and let’s not forget that killer opening sequence with Drew Barrymore. Before the decade was out a sequel would also follow the following year and along with it a franchise and Ghostface’s interchangeable personna was born.
Chief among setting the tone for the decade and the success that followed in Scream’s wake was Dawson’s Creek scribe Kevin Williamson, who managed to tap into the pulse of those of my generation, eager to be understood and have those “deep and meaningful’ relationship discussions.
By 1997, Williamson was just starting to hit his stride with I Know What You Did Last Summerstarring Campbell’s fellow Party of Five alumni Jennifer Love-Hewitt.
Love-Hewitt stars as Julie James, who along with three other school friends (Ryan Philippe, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, the latter was already on the rise thanks to a certain Buffy role) accidentally run down a stranger on the road and leave him for dead. It’s basically an elongated urban legend with the man with a hook hellbent on revenge. Like Scream it would also generate a franchise with a further two sequels to cash the cow.
Back to the Dawson’s Creek connection and another teen horror, Disturbing Behaviourthat would be released in 1998, the busiest year for the sub-genre, At the time, I more-than jumped on this band-wagon following Katie Holmes’ second feature film. This was a time when I, like Dawson, was undecided about the whole Joey/Jen thing, before realising in my case, that Michelle Williams was always the more interesting person to watch on screen, but more about her in a moment.
Disturbing Behaviour is probably the weakest in this line up of movies, but does boast James Marsden and Nick Stahl in the mix, in a tale of idyllic suburbia with a sour undertone in both its take of the American Dream and repressed teenage sexuality but it does still have the same beats and touches on the same wavelength that was being generated at the time.
Onto Holmes’ counterpart, Michelle Williams, who, again in my opinion, deserves greater praise for the work that she produces each year. In 1998, Williams would be cast in the support role of Molly in one of Horrors biggest franchises, Halloween.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later would have Kevin Williamson on writing duties, so it’s no wonder that Williams would connect well with the screenplay. Aside from bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back for the first time since Halloween 2 to pit against Michael Myers, it also introduced us to the so fresh and hot right now, Josh Hartnett. Let’s not talk about that hair cut though, for in his other movie that year, The Faculty, he slipped easily into the bad boy, good heart character with a brooding presence. Oh and that guy Kevin Williamson is behind the screenplay again.
When I first watched The Faculty I had a strong negative reaction to it, as I wore my snobbery hat when I watched it and took all the homagees embedded within as rip=offs of the great films that preceded it. I was a huge fan of director Rober Rodriguez at the time, which I think added to my disappointment further.
I have since grown to love this film more though and recognise it for what it was, a love of sci fi horror and again had some great stars in Elijah Wood (pre-LOTR), Jordana Brewster, Clea Duvall (I had such a thing for her too – Apparently I have a type, just ask fellow Surgeon Antony Yee), Laura Harris, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Shawn Hatosy, Jon Stewart, and Piper Laurie. It definitely warrants repeat viewing and holds up because of the fun energy and bold direction that Rodriuez alway brings to his movies.
Rounding out the quartet of movies for 1998 is Urban Legend which is a little forgotten despite generating a franchise in its own right and another strong cast considering with Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Tara Reid, Rebecca Gayheart, Michael Rosenbaum, Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek again), Robert Englund, and Danielle Harris into the fold. It captures the urban legend tales of horror well enough but can’t quite shake off the fact that it’s riding on the coattails of stronger movies and suffers a little with age.
My last notable film to mention however lifts the half-decade of teen horror back to higher standards with its clearly tongue in cheek tale, Idle Hands where a stoner, Anton (Devon Sawa currently seen in a cracking film, Hunter Hunter) who discovers his hands are possessed after waking up to find his parents murdered. A cool cast again with Jessica Alba and Seth Green, Idle Hands is great fun to watch and definitely not to be taken seriously.
Sawa would also go on to star in another cracking film at the turn of the next decade in Final Destination as the trend would dial down a little.
For those 5-6 years though, it would produce a number of movies, some to hold high and some probably best forgotten but for nostalgic reasons still resonate with me today. I can only blame Nancy. I should have taken the heed and bound her from harm… harm to others and harm to myself…
Set among the remote wilderness of Canada and on the brink of civilization, Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan) and daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell) have chosen to take up residence as fur trappers, living off the land with scant food supplies. I say chosen, but it’s fairly obvious early on that Joseph is the one overseeing that decision, and Anne appears somewhat reluctant and grows tired of the struggles of living in such a remote place. There are hints that Joseph is not happy among people, but it’s never fully explored why this is. Needless to say, he is content to immerse himself in the rugged terrain and has taken to teaching or rigorously training his daughter Renee how to survive in primitive ways and learning the animal traits that will ensure their survival.
Fairly early on, the family fear that a wild wolf has returned and threatens their safety, so Joseph swears to protect them and go on a hunt for the beast. As he stalks his prey however, he stumbles across a more sinister scene as a ritualistic circle of half naked female corpses lay.
Now any sane man would take the information to the police but Joseph is a lone wolf himself and as hinted at earlier communication and social interactions are a distant cry from the characters involved. Instead, Joseph sees it upon himself to venture out and find the killer.
Meanwhile, Anne and Renee are left to fend for themselves and have a fearful encounter with the wolf, but with Joseph’s absence drifting into days, Anne goes to the police to inform them of the vicious brute, only to be dismissed.
With no choice but to embrace their situation, Anne and Renee set out to protect their home, when a wounded man (Nick Stahl) appears one night. Anne has no choice but to aid this stranger, but is there more to him than meets the eye?
Hunter Hunter walks a fine line in its exposure of mankind at its most vulnerable and yet most violently animalistic and vicious. Throughout the films admittedly slow pace, we are left pondering the direction that Shawn Linden is taking us on. Is it a survival horror film? Is this a case of beast vs man? Or does it suggest that there is more to the wild than the beast that lies in its natural habitat?
It is held together by some fine performances, most notably with Sawa and Sullivan.
The slow shambling tension that lurks in its depths brutally awakens with a savage conclusion, drawing out the most feral of humanity when pushed to the brink.
Some may find the closing scenes too gruesome to bear, but the final moments are one that haunts.