Catching Some ZZZ's
Eight year old Joshua (Jett Klyne) is experiencing visitations from a new, invisible friend who he has named “Z.” His parents, Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and Kevin (Sean Rogerson) both find this a bit odd but treat Joshua just like any other kid with an imaginary friend. They play along, although Elizabeth seems a bit more worried than Kevin. As time passes, Joshua starts doing odd things, including making a wall-size, creepy drawing of Z. Seeing this triggers something in Elizabeth, something that moves beyond simple motherly concerns for a child. It reminds her of her own childhood, and not in a good way. Joshua gets in trouble at school and then (maybe) hurts a classmate during a playdate. Alarmed, Elizabeth takes Joshua to the same psychologist she had when she was a child, Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie), who sees a disturbing pattern starting to repeat itself. Turns out, Z maybe isn’t imaginary (imagine that) and is a “friend” from Elizabeth’s past. He’s some sort of supernatural creature, and he’s returned to her through her son (or has he?). You see, Elizabeth promised she’d be with him forever when she was a child, and now Z has come back to help her fulfill that promise…
Z is a pretty damned good scary movie. It takes its time to build the characters and their world before sliding us slowly into the horror that is encroaching on the fringes of their conventional reality. I really enjoyed the way writer/director Brandon Christensen gradually ratchets up the weirdness, taking a seemingly normal family and changing what they perceive to be real into a nightmarish world of never-ending terror. By the time the movie is finished, nothing seems ordinary anymore, nothing but the horror of Z and what he has done to this family. The actors are all great in this, really selling it every step of the way. There are some genuinely creepy moments, especially towards the end, but most of the horror plays out psychologically, as you can see how Z is tearing apart the boy and the husband but, most especially, Elizabeth. The only real problems I have are the few moments of CGI jump scares (they just look cartoonish and take me out of the intense mood of the scenes) and the ending. While it’s not bad, I think a stronger ending would have been a fade out on the fallen telephone. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. What happens after feels like a coda stamped on for a possible sequel and it isn’t bad, just ordinary.
This one is streaming exclusively on Shudder, as I write this. If you don’t have Shudder what are you doing? It’s cheap and has a ton of great movies and honestly, is easily the best value of any streaming service, especially if you like Horror. But this isn’t an ad for them. Get the blu ray of this when it comes out. If you’re a fan of spine-chilling horror that gets under your skin and crawls around like a nest of newly-hatched ants, this is the movie for you. Creepy, disturbing, dark, and deliciously wicked, Z is a film worth seeing time and time again.
Three out of Four Stars