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Brandon Christensen
Keegan Connor Tracy, Jett Klyne, Sean Rogerson
Brandon Christensen, Colin Minihan

A family finds themselves terrorized by their eight-year-old son's imaginary friend.
Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 83 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 9/1/2020

• None


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Z [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 24, 2020)

A staple of the horror genre, the “creepy kid” theme gets a new exploration via 2020’s Z. Introverted eight-year-old Josh Parsons (Jett Klyne) lives with his parents Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and Kevin (Sean Rogerson).

After the other children shun Josh, he presents an “imaginary friend” named “Z”. At first, this choice seems fairly harmless.

However, Josh begins to spiral, as he displays severely problematic behavior. As this intensifies, the situation grows and it becomes apparent Z may not be completely imaginary.

Although I placed Z in the “creepy kid” subgenre, that may seem somewhat off-base, as most of the film actually revolves around Beth. As we learn before long, she comes with her own history as it pertains to Z.

Which seems like a decent twist, but not one that really goes as far as the movie would like. Z walks a fine line between psychological and literal horror, and it doesn’t balance the two especially well.

Some of that stems from the rapid way in which it tosses us into Josh’s apparent mental degeneration. We don’t get to know the characters all that well before he goes kooky, and that seems like a mistake because we get little sense of pre-Z Josh.

Sure, we ascertain that the other kids don’t much like him, but this doesn’t go far, and we don’t see him decline in a tangible way. One minute he’s an introverted but well-behaved kid and the next he’s suspended from school due to violent behaviors.

And when I say “one minute and the next”, I mean that nearly literally. Most movies would show a gradual decline in Josh’s mental state, but Z gets him booted from school barely after the credits finish.

This seems too fast and it robs the movie of some natural tension. I get that the filmmakers want to move to the meat of the story – the elements that pertain more specifically to Beth – but we still could use more of a dramatic build than we get.

Much of the film teases us with the notion of whether or not Z actually exists, and you know what? I still don’t really know.

Z feels like it wants to have its cake and eat it too. We get many signs that Z remains imaginary, but we get plenty of others that he resides in reality.

I think one side dominates the other, as too much of the movie makes no sense if the tale doesn’t veer that way, but the “facts” stay uncertain, and that seems like a cheat. Not that I need a movie to spell everything out for me, but Z comes across like it messes with the viewer in an unfair manner that plays by ever-changing rules.

On the positive side, Z manages a reasonably creepy tone, and it doesn’t rely too much on the usual jump scares. Heck, it even delivers one genuinely shocking jolt.

For the most part, the actors fare well. Klyne occasionally overdoes his role, but he doesn’t go too far over the edge, and Tracy helps ground matters in a part that could become overwrought in the wrong hands.

All of this adds up to a decent horror movie but not one that excels. It relies a little too much on coincidence and erratic “rules” to turn into a truly compelling effort.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus F

Z appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a mostly solid transfer.

Overall delineation looked fine, as the movie usually seemed well-defined. Some wider shots could be a little soft, but not to a substantial degree. I saw no jaggies or shimmering, and both edge haloes and print flaws remained absent.

To the surprise of no one, teal and amber dominated the film’s palette. While predictable, the colors seemed well-executed.

Blacks showed good depth, and shadows were fine. Some low-light shots could be a smidgen thick, but not terribly so. All this led to a more than competent presentation.

Similar thoughts accompanied the fairly good DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Z. This wasn’t exactly an action-packed mix, so one shouldn’t expect constant auditory shenanigans. When appropriate, the soundscape kicked to life well, but much of it focused on ambient information and music.

Audio quality worked fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.

Music offered good range and impact, and effects followed suit. These elements contributed fine dimensionality, with strong low-end at appropriate times. All of this led to a worthwhile soundtrack, if not a memorable one.

The disc comes with zero extras – not even any previews.

As a psychological horror film, Z tends to seem inconsistent, as it doesn’t always appear to play by its own rules. Still, it becomes a watchable affair with a few positives. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture and audio but it lacks bonus materials. Nothing here dazzles, but the movie works better than most in its genre.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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