JOSHUA (George Ratliff). 105 minutes. Opens Friday (July 13). Rating: NNN
Let's be honest - little kids are either cute or creepy. And the titular twerp in this Omenesque psychological thriller is as monstrous as he is precocious.
He dresses like a young Republican, speaks in an unnerving HAL 9000 monotone while wearing a blank expression, is obsessed with mummification and isn't too happy about having a new baby sister.
Pretty soon pets start dying, the baby won't stop crying and Mom (Vera Farmiga) is having a postpartum meltdown. Dad (Sam Rockwell), who exhibits the paranoid tweaker vibe of the strung-out and sleep-deprived, starts to suspect dear little Josh (Jacob Kogan) is the problem, to the point where he's tempted to smack some expression onto his kid's face or at least muss up Joshie's 70s-news-anchor hairdo.
Unlike Damien, who had a clear motivation for pushing Mommy off a banister (he's the son of Satan, after all), Joshua's devilish behaviour is unexplained. He's not really jealous of the newborn or angry at his parents, which makes him all the more disturbing.
The result is a slow-burning if somewhat sterile parable about the horrors of parenthood, specifically the dreadful worry that despite your best efforts and intentions, you still might raise a little Michael Myers.
Or, in this case, a little Talented Mr. Ripley.