At first glance, Z takes on the look like your conventional child-is-haunted by an unnamed entity horror movie. Directed by Brandon Christensen, the movie follows the Parsons family, Kevin (Sean Rogerson), Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy), and their song, Josh (Jett Klyne). Everything seems to be for them – a beautiful house and a fun-loving family unit to boast. If you are familiar with any horror movie, this arrangement is way too good to be true. This is until Josh starts playing with an imaginary friend named Z. From there, the movie starts to unravel his increasingly disturbing behavior. Trouble at school, outbursts, and a play date went array are some.
This movie could have gone down that path, but the writing team of Christensen and Colin Minihan built an undercurrent to something slightly more disturbing. To a point, where you come to realize that it’s not Josh’s movie. Z is about the chaotic atmosphere around Beth and the great performance of Connor Tracy to convey that. Beth is at her breaking point. Her mother is terminally ill, her sister Jenna (Sara Canning) has her own set of issues with alcohol, and Kevin isn’t as helpful with Josh as one would hope. As things devolve around the Parsons, it hits even harder for Beth. This movie couples a slow burn of gloomy horror with the real consequences of a stress avalanche.
With a discovery from her childhood and assistance from her family psychiatrist, Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie), you come to find out there is more to Z that is initially thought. Cinematographer Bradley Stuckel utilizes things such as negative space to depict the deteriorating mindset of Beth and those around her. The movie’s tone shifts once you get into the second act from a malevolent/poltergeist movie to something even more heartbreaking. There’s a bond between Z, Beth, and Josh that drives them further apart.
You don’t see the manifestation of ‘Z’ very often throughout the film. That often works both to the movie’s overall benefit and scare factor. Only through paintings and quick-cut glimpses do you see what ‘Z’ looks like. The combination of using the audience’s mind against them and actor Luke Moore makes for a creepy experience. It falters slightly when CGI is introduced, but those parts are few. Otherwise, the movie has a clever way of playing with perspective. Are these characters conversing with a demonic manifestation or is it a figment of their worn-down psyches? The movie leaves just the right amount of space for you to decide one thing or both. The macabre things could e of supernatural descent or just the frayed pathways of a family unit that didn’t realize they were on the brink until it was too late.