It’s quite common for children of a certain age to have imaginary friends. However, when said friend is causing the child to act out, and seems like a real entity, things start to get creepy.
And much like Shudder’s recent release, Daniel Isn’t Real, Z (Wants to Play) takes this idea and runs with it to a chilling supernatural conclusion!
Why Are Kids So Creepy?
At first, Josh (Brett Klyne) seems like any other eight year old. He likes to have and play, sometimes with his imaginary friend, whom he calls “Z”.
His parents, Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and Kevin (Sean Rogerson) don’t think anything of it and just accept it. However, Josh starts getting in trouble in school, even getting suspended for threatening and fighting other children.
Then, on a playdate, he goes so far as the seriously injure a classmate, resulting in hospitalization. Beth and Kevin become increasingly worried, as well as frustrated at how much Josh acknowledges this Z, claiming that he’s real.
Plotwise, it’s a bit similar to the aforementioned Daniel Isn’t Real, with elements of other evil children movies like Joshua (aptly titled), The Prodigy, and The Good Son.
And had Z just gone with the evil/creepy child trope, all it would have been was a forgettable imitation of these other films. However, it subverts our expectations, and does something far more interesting.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
It’s All in the Past
In order to help Josh grip reality, Beth and Kevin take him to a psychiatrist that Beth saw when she was a child, Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie).
According to Seager, Josh seems like a perfectly normal child with just an overactive imagination. He is however a bit alarmed when he hears that the name of Josh’s imaginary friend is Z.
As the doctor seems to be helping Josh, it brings back memories from her own childhood, particularly when Dr. Seager helped her.
While watching an old home movie, Beth realizes that she also onc e had an imaginary friend named Z, and her world begins to shatter.
In a very creative and compelling plot subversion, we spend the rest of the film not dealing with Josh, but rather his mother Beth, as Z comes back into her life.
She regresses back to a childlike state of mind, even making Josh jealous for stealing his friend. It would have been so easy for Z to follow in the clichéd footsteps of many films that came before.
But shifting the focus to the mother in the third act was a unique idea that few films have the guts to pull off. Its ending (which we won’t spoil) definitely doesn’t hold back in shock value, and will probably have fans debating it (which is very much the point).
As previously mentioned, creepy kids isn’t a new concept in horror, but Z finds a way to take use this trope in a new and interesting direction, that’s both creepy and unsettling!
Z (Wants to Play) is streaming exclusively on Shudder!