Creepy kids are a horror movie staple. As recently as 2018’s Heredity, children have played a big part in scary films. An off shoot of creepy kid movies are the stories about evil imaginary friends. After all, bad kids are hard enough. What would happen if they involved their buddies no one else can see? Z is a 2019 horror movie premiering on Shudder this Mother’s Day. The story focuses on Elizabeth and her son Joshua. Josh has recently started hanging around with a new imaginary friend named Z. Unfortunately, Z is interested in more than fun and games.
The plot of the film is familiar almost to a fault. Josh gives appropriately evil glances while his father Kevin downplays everything. There are the standard fake outs and jump scares. When a psychiatrist (Stephen McHattie) looks up knowingly at the mention of Z, it seems the script is entirely build on tropes. At a glance, there does not seem to be much to Z.
It does not take long to realize the movie is much more than it initially lets on. It has its share of jump scares; it would be impossible to do the premise justice without them. Z never relies on them, however. The moments are well timed for maximum effectiveness.This helps in building the atmosphere. In spite of the plot moving at a rapid pace, the story remains focused and tension filled. Characters are only given surface level development (Kevin is perfectly built as the too cool for school father/husband, however), but the scares are strong enough to carry the movie.
Z also features some excellent use of foreshadowing. Towards the end of the movie, there will be many moments that are payoffs to earlier actions. Everything leads to a polarizing ending. The last third of the movie touches on mental illness. The nature of Z may be why it seems director Brandon Christensen does not seem to go all in with the idea. Still, it will be jarring for some.
Horror movies have looked at different avenues for fear for decades. Z seems to be little more than another scary kid with even scarier imaginary friend story. Instead, it covers themes such as friendship, mental health, loyalty, and family. The movie has a great atmosphere and interesting plot. It may not be a typical Mother’s Day movie, but it is a fun one.
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