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Film / Joshua

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Joshua is a 2007 American psychological horror/thriller film about an affluent young Manhattan family and how they are torn apart by the increasingly sadistic behavior of their disturbed son, Joshua. The film was directed by George Ratliff and stars Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Dallas Roberts, Michael McKean, Celia Weston, and Jacob Kogan as Joshua. It was released on July 6, 2007 in the United States.

Joshua contains examples of:

  • Abusive Offspring: Joshua embarks on a campaign of psychological warfare on both his parents, breaking them down mentally over a period of months.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Uncle Ned, there's no mention of his sexuality but he has the stereotypical mannerisms; he also loves theater and music.
    • Some see Joshua as being this, even though he's only nine years old.
  • Arc Words: Joshua's Armor-Piercing Question to both his parents at various points: "Do you still love me?"
  • Attention Whore: Joshua. Wanting to be a baby again so you can get all of your parent's attention, faking an illness at a concert and pretending to faint while onstage in front of several people.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: Ned makes some references to mental illness running in their family and the smell of the institution that Abby is in brings back "bad memories". It's implied that Abby's severe postpartum depression may have a genetic component.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Apparently but not definitely as it ends without a resolution. Joshua does get his parents in jail and in an asylum and gets adopted by his uncle but the film ends with Ned realising what his nephew did, which leaves the possibility open that he will prove to the authorities who the monster is.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Played with. It's left ambiguous whether Joshua filming himself hurting Lily was a stupid and inexplicable action (detailed under Voodoo Shark) or if it was part of his master plan to drive Brad to madness.
  • Big Brother Bully: Exaggerated. Joshua terrifies and physically abuses his baby sister Lily, causing her to cry constantly, when she's less than three months old.
  • Children Are Innocent: No, they're not!
    • One of the taglines is even: 'Not all children are innocent'.
  • Creepy Child: Joshua. Even as a first impression his mannerisms are a bit off. He is cold, stoic and obviously manipulative and any emotional displays seem often unnatural and robotic. His fascination with death doesn't help at all. His real personality and murderous acts do this impression justice and show how completely devoid of any compassion he really is.
  • Enfant Terrible: Joshua tortures his baby sister, manipulates situations to torture his mother and eventually drive her to madness, then moves on to doing the same to his father...all so he can live with his uncle.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The kid throws his grandmother down the stairs in a public place in broad daylight. Witnesses...
  • False Innocence Trick: Joshua does something very similar. When Brad calls a child psychiatrist to help him with Joshua's sociopathic nature, Joshua draws an extremely violent picture that the psychiatrist describes as a sign of abuse, leading her to disbelieve all of Brad's claims.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Heavily implied to be the motive behind Joshua's behavior early in the film. Every time his family gives attention to his baby sister, he acts out. When his deeply religious grandmother takes him to church for the first time and the Christians mention being born again, he takes it to mean a literal birth and states that he wants to be born again. (Presumably to gain the attention of his parents.)
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: At the end Joshua and his uncle write a song at the piano to celebrate becoming a family. The lyrics imply that Joshua is starting to be happy feels that his parents got their just desserts and will never be loved again. The movie ends with Joshua's Uncle giving him a horrified stare. (Presumably having realized that it was all part of Joshua's plan.)
  • Kick the Dog: Ambiguous; the dog is found dead. An unambiguous example is him embalming his pet guinea pig and also offering a beggar money in exchange for letting him throw a stone at him.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Joshua of course, though the only other child that suffers from it is his baby sister and his cruelty is much more devious and refined than mere bullying.
  • Lack of Empathy: Joshua lacks empathy to a disturbing extent, be it defenseless animals, babies, or his own parents and grandmother they are nothing more to him than pieces of meat to use and dispose of to his heart's content.
  • The Plan: All of Joshua's actions are to have him sent to live with his uncle.
  • The Sociopath: Joshua is a textbook case. He has no pity, no shame, no gratitude, no remorse and no love for anyone no matter how kindly they treat him. Except maybe Uncle Ned, but even that is ambiguous.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Joshua throwing up at the start suggests the 'peeing on the rug' scene from The Exorcist.
    • The inter-titles showing the span of time (each marked by a piano chord) suggest the passing of the days in The Shining.
  • Voodoo Shark: A fair few of the hints the film gives to explain things just raise further questions.
  • Wham Line: In-universe, though it's not a surprise to the audience:
    • After his wife is institutionalized, his mother dies, he is severely sleep-driven, he is framed for physical abuse by his Enfant Terrible son, and Joshua steals Lily's "binky", Joshua turns to Brad and tells him "nobody will ever love you". This escalates a single slap to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
    • The final line of the film: Joshua sings, "I only ever wanted to be with you" to Ned.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Joshua bruises himself in order to frame Brad for physically abusing him.
  • "You!" Exclamation:
    • After Abby discovers that Joshua took Lily from the crib and has a full mental breakdown, she can only scream "You!" repeatedly.
    • It's more subtle, but this is Hazel's last word as she's pushed down the stairs.