There are plenty of subgenres in the horror film category one that has been getting a bit more attention is family horror, though it often seems to be more focused on mother and child than the inclusion of the father figure (a discussion for another time), but nothing truly beats the bond they endure for 9-months to delivery. Filmmakers Brandon Christensen and Colin Minihan (Grave Encounters ) reteamed for another psychological thriller meets horror story, advancing on themes found in Still/Born (2017) reflecting on parental fears and a persistent imaginary friend known as Z. The movie premiered on Shudder in May and has since advanced to a wider scope via DVD and Blu-ray, allowing the spooky story to harken back to The Babadook , containing subtle references to abuse and possession.
The film opens with a single child family, Joshua Parsons (Jett Klyne), playing with his toys, acting sounds, and enjoying his trains (early foreshadowing) while his parents Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy (Dead Rising: Watchtower )) and Kevin (Sean Rogerson (Grave Encounters 2 )) maintain a distance, that is until dinner when Josh happily bops down the stairs and introduces his imaginary friend Z, requesting a setting a place for him too. His parents pleasantly indulge this mere fantasy and carry on as if real, however it does feel slightly off, there’s something not quite right. Meanwhile, Beth has other issues, from a dying mother, which has her returning to the house where she grew up, and a certain room hiding suggestive secrets and a sister with an alcohol problem who personally checked out of life. One key element that sadly becomes a redundant in many movies of late is the absent-minded young father, herein Kevin has a fulltime career, which requires him to work all of the time and he has ignored warning slips from the school about his son’s troublesome behavior. This leads to the stronger bond between mother and child, reinforced on the screen, she becomes his protector, and yet hides many secrets from not only him but Kevin as well. In trying to aid their child they seek out psychologist Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie (Kaw ), who saw Beth as a child, and in an afterthought mentioned to him about “Z”; which raises many red flags. Soon after, Josh draws a mural of his imaginary friend, it is a creepy individual, his playdates become harmful to others, Z’s reemergence to Beth’s life contain life altering situations, spirals in many directions; including a twist in the ending allowing for some psychological thrills.
When many horror fans hear of possession stories or those involving imaginary friends with vicious attitudes they conceive of thoughts of immense violence, and while it exists, the blood and gore or even mangled bodies isn’t presented. In addition, the CGI work is a tad shaky especially the poor effects concerning a house on fire, the special effects are very fake looking. Sadly, once again the father role becomes very secondary, almost as if unnecessary, as he is far more concerned with his job, this a reoccurring theme in the family themed flicks and very similar to Still/Born. While a few jump scares exist, they’re quite the cheap ones, with spikes in music but some that could startle an unsuspecting viewer.
Parents, Uncles, and Aunts often watch over the younger children with curiosity and intrigue, wondering what the future holds for them, as well as what their imagination is creating as they play with their toys, for some that word imagination is too liberal, leading to destructive creations. The entity herein is devilish, working to isolate, control, and eventually fracture an entire family all in a creative storytelling method. The cast does and exceptional job of keeping the audience engaged and it does, at times, deploy psychological thrills, chills, and terrors.
- Z wants to play
IMDb rating: 5.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10