Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keegan Connor Tracy, Jett Klyne, Sean Rogerson, Stephen McHattie, Sara Canning, Chandra West, Ali Webb, Deborah Ferguson
Written by: Brandon Christensen, Colin Minihan
Directed by: Brandon Christensen
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 83
Date: 09/02/2020

Z (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Zed Reckoning

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Marred by a few gaps in character logic and behavior, the "imaginary friend" horror movie Z is nonetheless quite spooky thanks to its clever camera setups, sharp sense of timing, and startling music.

Eight year-old Josh Parsons (Jett Klyne) is a good kid, but dreamy and shy. One day he begins playing with an imaginary friend he calls "Z." His mother, Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy), is concerned, but his father, Kevin (Sean Rogerson) shrugs it off. A psychologist, Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) says that Josh will outgrow it, but seems shocked when the name "Z" is mentioned.

Things get worse as "Z" seems to spur Josh on to worse and worse behavior, to the point where he's expelled from school. When Beth's mother dies and she begins going through boxes of old things, she finds something startling. This is not the first time "Z" has been around.

Directed and co-written by Brandon Christensen, Z immediately comes across as a brisk, skillful work, with a touching, soundless scene demonstrating Josh's isolation. As "Z" begins its reign of terror, the movie works largely with sudden shocks, but far more skillful and thoughtful than regular old, lazy jump scares. Christensen even uses some creaky old genre staples such as a boy staring blankly at an unseen wall or a woman taking a bath in a tub surrounded by candles to unleash some big scares.

One scene, involving a staircase, will make even the most veteran horror fans shriek. But the characters can make one crazy. The father character always seems two steps behind things, and the things that he and Beth choose not to say to each other are baffling. Not to mention the strange reaction to Josh's being expelled (they take him to a huge indoor playground?), the lack of concern over the grandmother's death, and the lack of concern over other troubling events.

Even the psychologist, who seems to know what's going on, takes a long time to actually help out, although McHattie is always fun to watch. Moreover, Tracy is always sympathetic as Beth, and Z on the whole is so technically shrewd and thrilling, that it's most definitely worth a look.

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