Z Review - Choose Your Friends Wisely

Summary and Review of Z

Beth: Keegan Connor Tracy Kevin: Sean Rogerson Josh: Jeff Klyne Director: Brandon Christensen Release: 2020

The "imaginary friend" sub-genre doesn’t really grab me, as too often I have been disappointed but I was intrigued enough by the description and promo poster to give "Z" a go and, I'm pleased to say, was not only grabbed but unceremoniously wrestled to the ground and left feeling distinctly dazed by the experience.

"Z" starts predictably enough with an ostensibly happy family; Beth, Kevin and their son Josh. Beth’s mother is dying and her sister is unreliable, drinking to escape the inevitable outcome. Beth has matters on her mind and Kevin is the archetypal bread-winner who often works away. Josh is a quiet, reserved boy with few friends but suddenly he introduces an imaginary companion, whom he names as “Z”. Although taken aback, his parents are not unduly concerned at first and play along believing this to be a phase. 

However, the arrival of Z coincides with an alarming change in Josh’s behaviour. He is excluded from school and Beth discovers that the other mothers don’t trust him around their children. In desperation, Beth and Kevin take Josh to a psychiatrist who thinks that he just needs a good dose of parental attention.

The tension starts to ramp up when, on an outing with Josh, Beth witnesses something that makes her wonder how imaginary Z really is. As the growing influence of Z becomes more menacing, Beth fears for Josh’s safety and sanity and she begins to realise that she has to look to the past for answers to Josh’s present.

“Z” is a bit of a rarity these days. A simple but frightening story with genuinely unexpected, heart-stopping moments that had me audibly gasping and uttering expletives. Even when I knew something was coming, I was still taken aback. But the film doesn’t rely solely on these elements to create a supremely creepy atmosphere and, in between times, dramatic visuals and score with well directed acting, masterfully builds the tension until I could bear no more. Jeff Klyne puts in a suitably spooky performance as Josh and I was never really sure if he was a manipulated innocent or a willing participant. Christensen doesn't let you rest for a moment and adds layers of unease and discomfort which, at times, act as a reminder that the horrors of the real world overlap with those of the supernatural.

It wasn’t all mastery and discomfort as there were some noticeable flaws. Bafflingly, Beth and Kevin withhold rather important information from each other and then fail to question or chastise Josh after an alarming incident in which he was involved. And I’m pretty sure that a building that went up in flames seemed largely unscathed in later scenes. By the third act, there were elements that had me questioning the narrative as Beth fights for Josh and it all unfolded rather hurriedly compared to the rest of the film but, for me, the above criticisms were easily absorbed into the general quality of the offering and it kept me guessing up until the end.

This was a good old fashioned scare fest that will not have you checking under the bed as you really won’t want to see what’s there. I enjoyed regular outbreaks of goosebumps which is what I really want from a horror film and “Z” did not disappoint. I look forward to catching up with Superhost and Still/Born, which I have passed on until now, but this has whetted my appetite for more from the Christensen stable.



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