Despite a good fright or two things eventually become a bit rote as we wait for an inevitable end in this tale of a child’s imaginary friend who might not be so imaginary or friendly. The first third/half of building dread and creepiness works well, culminating in a very effective moment that’s a pretty great scare. The great scare aftermath ends up being squandered on rather lame developments, unfortunately, as things spin in circles before calling it a day.

Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and Kevin’s (Sean Rogerson) eight year old son, Joshua (Jett Klyne), loves playing with his imaginary friend who goes by “Z.” Kevin’s a successful architect and Elizabeth’s been a stay-at-home mom who lately spends more and more time visiting/caring for her ailing mother since her sister, Jenna (Sara Canning), can’t bring herself to help. Their rather peaceful existence turns tumultuous as Joshua’s behavior becomes exceedingly worrisome and unpredictable leading them to a therapist (Stephen McHattie)–except according to Joshua it’s Z who’s responsible. Elizabeth soon begins to realize her son might not be making Z up, after all…

As far as setups go, it’s hardly the most unique, but anything can work if you make it work and for a while I thought Z was doing well enough with it. We’re spared any opening narration, which is *always* a pro, and the atmosphere has a gloomy, overcast kind of feel. I liked the lack of lazy jump scares or overly suggestive music to fill a void where horror should be, plus the cast does enough to get the point across. Also, I know it’s really only one moment in an otherwise okay movie but I will say the aforementioned particular scare works quite well.

Keegan Connor Tracy as Elizabeth and Jett Klyne’s Joshua fare better than Sean Rogerson’s Kevin because they actually get some stuff to do while Kevin’s relegated to being a Horror Movie Jerk Spouse. By that I mean he’s there to provide exposition, be a sounding board scene partner for the actual lead, and provide some secondary antagonism by obstructing the lead’s discovery/defense efforts with resolute disbelief anything might be amiss. We also shouldn’t forget the canon fodder aspect since you need bodies to kill in a scary movie, after all. His generic non-character actually fits in with their bland home full of “Dream, Believe, Love, Live”/”Do All Things With Love”-type decor (somebody hit up a nearby department store for home fillings!).

I won’t be spoiling that great scare in any way, but I will let you know that it isn’t a sign of things kicking into the next gear or anything of the sort. Frankly, I was largely on board even with cliche Horror Movie Jerk Spouse because the rest was working okay enough so when the solid scare came along I thought “next stage–here we come, horror!” only not so much. The movie lingers on the same kind of mood & mindset of earlier as if nothing really happened and momentum dissipates, returning to slow tension.

There seems to be a personal element of dealing with familial illness and how we each cope or don’t cope with how it touches us, which reminded me of Lights Out from a few years ago (especially with the Mom/kid/imaginary friend overlap). At a certain point, though, Z starts spinning its wheels towards a limp finale and somehow makes 83 minutes drag. All in all, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half so go into this creepy movie with low expectations and you’ll be good.

 

6 out of 10 Jerk Spouses

 

Z
RATING:UR

 

Runtime:1 Hr. 23 Mins.
Directed By:
Brandon Christensen
Written By:
Brandon Christensen
& Colin Minihan