{Movie Review} Z (2020)

So mother’s days coming up. It is a hallmark holiday but I will dutifully buy my mother and wife flowers to celebrate how difficult their job actually is. I know for a fact their jobs are hard but not nearly as hard as Elizabeth Parson’s (Keegan Conner Tracy) job who has to contend with her son Josh’s (Jett Klyne) imaginary friend Z, who is becoming less imaginary and more maniacal by the minute. Brandon Christensen does the creepy kid motif better than anyone as evidenced by Still/Born released in 2016. “Z” shares some of the same space of Still/Born but offers a bit more when it comes to commentary and a lot more when it comes to scares. When it comes out on May 7th on Shudder buy your wife or mother some flowers and settle in for the worst invisible friend we have ever met.

Christensen builds atmosphere like no one else, sans maybe Mike Flanagan who offers the same deep familial dread that permeates Z. Even in their well to do suburban home the Parson’s are struggling. Mom and dad have completely different views on parenting and this duality rings true for many parents struggling to figure out what type of parent they will be.

Christensen purposely lights most of the house in shadows to help set the mood. As the movie grows so too does the lighting in color and clarity. The ending of the film takes place in total daylight and it is just one of the many brave and strong choices offered by the director.

Header Photo included. All photos Courtesy of Digital Interference Productions

Each actor/actress brings that same feeling of clarity to their roles. Kevin Parson’s (Sean Rogerson) our dutiful father probably gets the shortest shrift and perhaps it is because I am father, also represents the most disappointing part of the film. As with other kid horror movies lately (Christensen’s own Still/Born, Babadook, and Before I Wake to name a few) the dads play a much smaller role in the outcome of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, Mom’s do a shit ton. Like more than they ever get credit for but this movie continues the trend of making very little use out of the father figure (maybe that is because we are kind of useless, no arguing there). It is clear that mom and dad are not on the same page and the film chooses to focus on Elizabeth’s inability to connect with her son as opposed to her husband’s enthusiasm. It is an interesting conversation but one that the movie ultimately does not fully explore.

Z won the scariest feature award at this year’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival and it lives up to that stellar reputation. Like Still/Born there are moments in this film where the innocence of a child is used as a barrier to understanding as opposed to a thing to be celebrated. It is the fact that kids are so sweet and innocent that makes the movie so much more terrifying. “Oh look honey, our kid is drawing giant creepy goblins on the wall again, how sweet”. Naw man I am out. Like my toddler occasionally stares at things that aren’t there and will tell us things like “the sweet old man sings to me at night”. Like what the actual hell is going on in that brain. It is that chasm of misunderstanding that Christensen exploits to make everything scarier.

The only time we see the creature is when Josh draws it for us on his bedroom wall. Interesting note Brittany Allen who produced the score for the film also created the drawing. Every director needs to have a composer who dreams up nightmare creatures in her spare time. That picture is the only real glimpse we get. Z is always just that child’s picture, an odd shadow, a set of glowing eyes, or a broken speak and spell. The horror comes from what we don’t see, and boy oh boy when it arrives boy does it hit hard.

Z remains one of the scariest movies I have seen this year and an absolute must for parents whose children sometimes feel alien to them despite being sweet and cuddly. Ultimately Z argues, careful who you cuddle with, who knows what monsters they may contain. Z wants to play and like a tired toddler, he will kick and scream until he gets what he wants.

Z makes its nonfestival debut on Shudder tomorrow. Now is the perfect time to get your free month by using the promo code SIGNAL or SHUTIN.


  1. Comment regarding the movie review for the film Z. I just want to say that fathers are Very Important as parents and its really sad to hear such a self deprecating commentary.
    I see fathers as an integral part of the family system. Why you may ask?Well as a former substance abuse counselor and case manager who worked with addicts and homeless addicts who suffered from long term mental illness as well as incarcerated males, I can assure you that the majority grew up without a father in the home. Their fathers were either not present, had passed away most from drug addiction or from some illness or shooting, or were incarcerated.
    Fathers are important for many reasons and one of which is that they can bring a sense of security and safety in the home like my father did. They can also provide a firmness that sometimes mothers lack. They are capable of being just as nurturing as a mother(my father could be more at times) but can also provide play and rough housing with sons which is a very natural thing for humans and other species.
    Unfortunately, the media is working hard at replacing the father with a “mother only home” by making them out to be insignificant and useless. But it really only matters if the fathers actually believe it. Right?
    Don’t get caught up in the “popular and hip” way of thinking that is being pushed by the media which is: Women rule everything now and men are just destructive and worthless creatures. Remember, You Do Matter and this is coming from a woman.

    • I challenge you to give it a try. In all of the movies mentioned the dads are not central characters but each play important roles. IN babadook its the literal absence of the husband/father that creates Babadook. In Before I Wake the loss of the father is the trigger that leads to the climax. In Z the father offers us a prototype for how a parent can connect with a child in a playful and loving way. I think each of those examples chooses to focus on the mother because being a mom is hard, like really freaking hard. Plus I think it just makes for a better story. Z is a really good horror film and my nitpick about the dad is just that and doesn’t speak to the wider state of play when it comes to how fathers are portrayed in pop culture. Cheers!

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