‘A lot of children have imaginary friends…’
As I’ve opined many times, horror is in the middle of a renaissance. For the first time, possibly ever, it is a genre that is regularly combining box office success with critical acclaim. Golden statues are still elusive, but hopefully that last great taboo will be expunged in due course.
Not every film has to reinvent the wheel, however. If you can take an already existing trope and tweek it into something dripping with menace and intensity, if you can really scare people, that will be their overriding memory of your work.
Joshua Parsons (Jett Klyne) is a seemingly normal eight-year-old. He is polite with his parents, he likes sandwiches with the crusts cut off and he spends much of his time playing with his imaginary friend Z. Things take a dark turn when it appears that Z isn’t so imaginary after all.
The horrific reality of being scared of your own child is not an original concept. It dates back to The Omen, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. And it’s an explosive idea. The thought that your child could become a monster is probably the worst nightmare of any parent. See We Need To Talk About Kevin for another sinister example. Z plays with these fears and wrings an excellent performance out of Keegan Tracy as Joshua’s beleaguered mom Beth.
The other shining star of Z is the eponymous monster himself. Director Brandon Christensen keeps his ghastly creation mostly in the shadows, so when he does reveal himself, it is particularly gasp inducing. There is one scene involving a candle lit bath that will stay with me for a long time.
Z is a genuinely frightening film that doesn’t rely wholly on cheap scares and loud noises to grab you by the neck. It is well acted, confidently directed and unsettling enough to make the prospect of a sequel an enticing one. But for now, just enjoy Z, and don’t turn around if you feel something breathing on your neck…