Review by Kyle Hintz
Directed by: Brandon Christensen
Written by: Brandon Christensen and Colin Minihan
Starring: Keegan Connor, Jett Klyne, Sean Rogerson, Sara Canning and Stephen McHattie
A family finds themselves terrorized by their eight-year-old son’s imaginary friend.
I’ll start by saying I’m not a big fan of evil kid movies. After The Bad Seed and The Omen, there’s really nowhere left to go. Either the kid is possessed or truly evil and we spend the running time waiting to discover which.
Z manages to take this cliched setup in a new direction. Beth (Keegan Connor) and Kevin (Sean Rogerson) seem to have the perfect life, a sleek modern home in the suburbs and a well-behaved, if shy, eight-year-old son named Josh (Jett Klyne). The only trouble is Josh doesn’t have many friends, so he creates an imaginary one, named Z.
Z seems harmless at first, but gradually his negative influence on Josh is revealed, skipping school, hurting the other kids, etc. After a particularly vicious attack on another kid, Beth and Kevin take Josh to see a psychiatrist (Stephen McHattie). The psychiatrist finds nothing wrong with Josh, but we discover Beth was a former patient of his. The story takes a twist from there that I won’t spoil.
Keegan Connor anchors the film with a strong lead performance. She puts the audience in her shoes as a mother struggling to save her child. McHattie lends a gravitas to the story as the psychiatrist. Jett Klyne is creepily innocuous as Josh, always making us wonder whether he’s a cold-blooded sociopath or really just a harmless child.
The script by Christensen and Minihan sidesteps the cliches of the genre and manages to draw out a lot of tension from the simple premise. The cinematography, editing and direction are considerably polished for what was certainly a quick shoot on a low budget.
The film flirts with a pitch black ending, then softens it a bit, though it’s still pretty dark. The climax leaves something to be desired, there isn’t a satisfying showdown. But all that being said, I’d highly recommend Z as a new spin on the evil kid horror subgenre. It’s prompted me to go back and watch Christensen’s first film: Still/Born, and keep an eye out for his next project.
4 out of 5