George Ratliff's supremely sinister film will leave more than a few viewers wary in its wake.
An upscale Manhattan couple (Vera Farmiga and Sam Rockwell) and their hyper-intelligent 9-year-old son Joshua (Jacob Kogan) welcome a newborn baby into the family unit. Typical enough premise, right? Not quite. The slow-burning narrative evolves into a deeply unsettling psychological thriller with echoes of The Bad Seed and Rosemary's Baby. Ratliff has a way with mood and atmosphere: The couple's sleek apartment becomes just as important a character as its inhabitants.
While Farmiga suffers due to the one-note nature of her largely unbearable character, Rockwell brings a welcomed humanity to a film that nearly suffocates its audience with mounting, borderline hysterical tension. And Kogan is close to remarkable in the title role. While Joshua clearly accomplishes its intended goals -- to scare the shit out of potential parents and to impart the fragility of the mind -- it also leaves one feeling chewed up in the teeth of Ratliff's well-choreographed manipulation machine. Grade: B-
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