‘What Josiah Saw’ showcases effects of trauma in gut-wrenching gothic horror film

Ryan Ranc, Life and Arts Reporter

TW: Some scenes discussing sexual assault and incest may be disturbing for some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised. 


Vincent Grashaw’s “What Josiah Saw,” released for streaming Aug. 4, explores the effects of trauma on relationships through the experiences of a southern family in this gothic horror tale playing exclusively on Shudder.

“What Josiah Saw” stands out with its unique approach to horror. The movie focuses on the Graham family as they uncover 20-year-old secrets in order to pay for past sins. The character of Josiah (Robert Patrick) primarily serves as a vessel for delivering the movie’s many religious references and elements, leading audiences to believe the film is a possession movie until the third act. In reality, the movie’s horror comes directly from the characters’ past mistakes and familial trauma, making for haunting and horrific storylines that deliver heavy topics of conversation. The film’s serious tone combined with its cinematography creates a sense of gothic horror that audiences may find more thriller-esque. While it may not be “traditional horror,” the movie certainly stands out as one of the most grisly films among other recently released horror pictures. 

Watching “What Josiah Saw” is best described as an emotional rollercoaster that builds mounting dread and drops audiences downward into a large dosage of shock — each minute progressively making audiences feel more and more dreadful and vulnerable. These raw emotions brought about by the talented minds behind the madness may not be for all audiences, but for those who enjoy character studies and heavily dramatic cinema, it certainly delivers. Each character behaves horrendously and remains dislikable throughout the storyline, yet audiences can’t help but sympathize with a few of them. The tone of the story and the direction of its characters also back up the uneasiness that most gothic horror pictures portray.

The film utilizes chapters to jump in time and explore the past and present, giving audiences a glimpse into the characters’ trauma and motives. While chapters are typically executed lazily in most movies, “What Josiah Saw” molds this structural device into an excellent and seamless way for audiences to better engage with its world and themes. That being said, this movie deserves audiences’ full attention. Looking down at one’s phone or not pausing when grabbing a quick snack will leave audiences incredibly lost, making the final chapter feel pointless. This careful design helps boost the payoff by the end of the story.

While “What Josiah Saw” tackles some very dark and realistic themes, the movie expertly creates a deeply disturbing story from the simple concept of how trauma affects people and their relationships. Furthermore, this well-executed gothic horror drama will satiate the desire for art house cinema.


4 build-ups of dread out of 5