When little Joshua Parsons (Jett Klyne) starts insisting that an extra place be set at table for his imaginary friend Z, Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and Kevin (Sean Rogerson) are tolerant and liberal about it – though can’t quite suppress their irritation, compounded by the fact that the kid is slightly creepy anyway. This being a Mom-centric horror movie, Kevin has one of those time-consuming but ill-defined jobs that distract him from the disturbing mystery unfolding in his house.
It comes as a shock to Elizabeth when Joshua is suspended from school for a variety of misdeeds his father knows about but hasn’t taken seriously – and that’s reinforced when she calls around the parents of all his friends trying to arrange a play-date only to discover that they’re all angry with or terrified of her precious, who of course blames all the bad things on Z. A serious ‘accident’ later, and the family – which extends to Elizabeth’s ne’er-do-well sister Jenna (Sara Canning) and their dying Mom – have to pay more attention. Joshua produces a mural-sized picture of Z, who looks like a franchise horror movie fiend and could not remotely be considered anyone’s friend, and a consultation with the local child psychologist (Stephen McHattie) raises even more unsettling possibilities when he makes a connection that Beth has missed … when she was a troubled little girl, she also had an imaginary friend called Z who might not have been imaginary, and who seems to be either responsible for or a reaction to deep rifts in the family.
Directed by Brandon Christensen (Still/Born), who co-wrote with busy Colin Minihan (What Keeps You Alive, It Stains the Sands Red), this is a domestic spook story that runs on familiar, but effective lines. Things get worse and worse for the embattled Mom, who has to get past her feeling that her own kid is a monster and cope with Z’s escalating campaign of terror, which eventually extends to arson and murder, in an attempt to pacify a demon she might have unloosed in the first place. Tracy is excellent in the lead, and Klyne is exquisitely unlikeable as the kid who always says the wrong thing – when his mom heroically draws the demon back to herself and retreats to the old family home to settle things with Z, her son whines angrily that she took his only friend from him.