I have a soft spot for creepy child films; a genre that is, in my most humble opinion, the far superior cousin to the possession film. The creepy child film is the inherently more despair driven version of the latter. The child itself becomes a surrogate for a multiple forms of upper-middle-class angst: suburban disillusionment, generational trauma, grief, you name it.
But above all else, what these films tap into is the general horrors of being a parent. I once saw a documentary wherein Larry Cohen described the central premise of It’s Alive as being a film about what if the very thing you love most were to turn murderous. There’s a sort of helplessness that comes with being a parent. It’s a helplessness that is exacerbated by the fact that there are no manuals, no instructions. Every situation becomes exactly unique to the human being you’re raising.
This is the conundrum Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and her husband Kevin (Seth Parsons) face when their son Josh (Jett Klyne) becomes obsessed with an imaginary friend named Z. It’s a time that coincides with Josh being suspended from school indefinitely for acting out (a wild leap of logic, if I do say so). When Beth begins to believe that there may be more to the mysterious Z than simply a child’s strange obsession with an imaginary friend, she must delve deep into her past to solve the mystery.
Christensen plays all the right notes here to set the stage for maximum chills. But it’s the film’s focal switch from son to mother that really makes the film fly, and allows Tracy to deliver one hell of a performance. This is all the fears we have about our kids manifested in a taut thriller about the traumas we pass on.
At BITS 2019, Z will play alongside Navin Ramaswaran’s The Remnant. Aside from being another showcase for the wonderful Kaniehtiio Horn, I got very little out of this. Ramaswaran has directed four features since 2015, and it’s clear he was able to pull the strings to get a larger production value out of his film than most shorts would have, but there is no reason for this to be a full sixteen minutes in length.
- Genre: Horror, Thriller
- Release Date: 11/26/2019
- Directed by: Brandon Christensen
- Starring: Jett Klyne, Keegan Connor Tracy, Sean Rogerson
- Produced by: Brandon Christensen, Chris Ball, Colin Minihan, Kurtis David Harder
- Written by: Brandon Christensen, Colin Minihan
- Studio: Digital Interference Productions, Hadron Films