When a horror movie can take a silly concept and make it terrifying, then it certainly has done its job. Z works on all levels as a horror movie despite a couple of moments when the film nearly went off the rails into ridiculousness.
Josh Parsons (Jett Klyne) is a sad and lonely 8-year old boy despite having both parents with him. His mother Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and father Kevin (Sean Rogerson) do not seem shaken when Josh starts communicating with an imaginary friend named Z.
“He’ll grow out of it” is the general idea, however, Elizabeth starts realizing slowly that there appears to be more to this imaginary friend than Josh’s imagination.
Josh’s behaviors become more mean and violent. Elizabeth starts seeing things around the house. When Josh draws a creepy picture of Z on his bedroom wall, things begin to escalate even more.
Eventually, Elizabeth discovers a surprising twist that connects Z to her own past, and she begins to understand the level of insidiousness at work here.
Z is a solid horror film that has a short run time and is paced well. There are some general horror tropes that exist here and the film does not try to subvert these at all. Still they work pretty effectively in the film. It is a good example of how a film’s use of tropes can work if it is smartly done.
As I said earlier, the film teetered between creepiness and ridiculousness and there were a couple of scenes where the movie was in danger of falling off the cliff and into the abyss of stupidity. Fortunately, the film was able to maintain itself and not drop into parody.
The one time when we got a real glimpse of Z, however, was a fail. The quick glimpse was not an effective use of special effects and made the monster look ineffectual. It was considerably creepier when the film only used the drawing on the wall as its imagery of Z and they should have left it at that. Luckily, this was the sole spot where Z made his actual presence known and the unknown was much more scary than the actual shot.
The performances were all really good though Keegan Connor Tracy may take her third act performance a bit over the top. The young kid does a sufficiently creepy job of portraying this weird kid. The arrival of Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) hinted at a different way to look at the movie, but that was not explored enough to truly give it analysis. It has some intriguing themes though that work with this picture.
It is a quick watch and, produced by Shudder, it has that scary vibe to it. It avoided the potential crash it was heading for and turned out to be an enjoyable addition to the horror films of 2020.