Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Joshua is one of the most original, brutal and bleak indie films I've seen. I was expecting another ho-hum gorefest that featured a deformed killer terrorizing a town, but Joshua is totally different and delivers on so many frightening and psychological levels that it surpassed all my expectations. This is a Fangoria GoreZone release, and it is significantly better than most Fangoria releases...
Kelby (Ward Roberts) reluctantly returns to his hometown of Bisby ("Population: Happy") to attend his estranged father's funeral with his new fiancee (Christy Jackson) in tow. Kelby left Bisby 13 years ago and never looked back. His father had been in prison, and it's vaguely hinted that he was a child molester and murderer. His mother is a ghost of a woman that truly doesn't care about anything anymore and his sister (Alexa Havins, of All My Children) tries to fill her emptiness with pleasures of the flesh. His Uncle Tom, whom Kelby meets for the first time at the funeral, is a deplorable and creepy knife salesman. The only person Kelby truly loves is his supportive fiancee, Amelia. Kelby also runs into some childhood friends he'd rather not see, Wally (Jeremiah Jordan) and James (Aaron Gaffey). Wally is now a cop and James is a accountant and also a serial killer who cuts up pretty young things in his isolated cabin. The three share a horrifying secret from their childhood, all having to do with a boy named Joshua. Kelby, who's been running from his past his whole life, is forced to confront the brutal reality of what happened many years ago.
The strength of the film is definitely the unusual story and the well-written script, created by Travis Betz, who is also the director. The psychological implications of what Kelby, Wally and James did are frightening in themselves, but to see it all play out on the screen is truly chilling. Betz is always one step ahead of the audience, making his characters (and their actions) unpredictable. When you finally find out what the boys did, you will most definitely be shocked and disgusted. The script also features many twists and turns, all of which are surprisingly believable and the next more shocking than the last.
As a director, Betz also succeeds with inventive camera angles and techniques. Scenes are shot from floor level, characters are framed off-center and we even get a cool circular shot of James' chamber of horrors near the end. The daring camera work definitely pays off in this film, as it echoes the calamity of Kelby's life.
The film does have it's problems though...first of all, there are some places where the pacing lags a bit. I can't put my finger on it, but there are just some places where this doesn't feel like a horror movie. I'm not sure if it was because of the pacing or the heavy drama of the story, but besides the torture and other gory bits, Joshua doesn't always feel like horror, though it is definitely horrifying. That, along with a few minor gripes about the audio and other typical low-budget problems, are the only detractions I would note about this film.
Overall, Joshua is a very sick and disturbing movie, one that will have you thinking about it for days. It's not that it is overly gory, but it's the fact that the content is so disturbing and so realistic that makes it so effective and frightening! Highly recommended for those who want to see a shocking and unique indie film.
Mr. Betz, I'll be keeping an eye on you...can't wait to see what you'll do next!