Brandon Christensen’s Z

The whole ‘creepy little kid has creepy imaginary friend’ thing has been done so many times in the horror genre we can almost sleepwalk our way through the beats, but that doesn’t mean a vicious, streamlined little effort like Brandon Christensen’s Z can’t come along and scare the shit out of me, which it did. This film doesn’t really do anything new or revolutionary for the formula but rather tells a simple, effective, no frills tale of one kid (Jett Klyne) and his imaginary friend Z, who no one but him can see, and us as we frequently catch unnerving split second sightings of and know he is in fact, very real. His dad (Sean Rogerson) is cavalier and doesn’t think much of it while his mom (Keegan Connor Tracy, excellent performance) is more intuitive and senses that Z is a real presence, not to mention catches fleeting and very disturbing glimpses of him. The boy’s keen psychiatrist (the ever charismatic Stephen McHattie) recognizes a pattern in this chain of events that harkens to a dark hereditary history within the family tree and tries to stop the cycle, but Z is a cunning, devious and very dangerous force. I’m not gonna lie, this film scared the absolute piss out of me; there are several extremely well orchestrated jump scares that are punishingly effective, including one that is so shocking I sat upright in bed and gasped hard enough to induce a coma. The filmmakers also realize that less is more when showing what Z is up to, and although we only ever get very quick peeks at what he, she or it looks like, the anatomical specifics are chilling and otherworldly enough to have the viewer squirming in discomfort. My only complaint is the plot could have been a bit more fleshed out, the mythology clearly delineated and there could have just been… more, overall? It’s a rare complaint as most films seem to divulge too much and go too far over the top while this one employs hefty restraint. This one is a hell of a horror film though, and does enough with dark corners, shadows and negative space to have you turning on all the lights and checking every closet before bed. Excellent film, streaming on Shudder.

-Nate Hill

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