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‘Imaginary’ Review — Blumhouse’s Latest Horror Serves Up Real Pain

Mar 8, 2024


The Big Picture

Imaginary
‘s plot is filled with nonsensical scenes and clichéd characters.
This horror film lacks any real scares or vision, despite being about imagination.

Imaginary
is a mess of a movie lacking originality, with an obvious storyline and poor character development.

Throughout Imaginary, the latest film from Blumhouse and directed by Truth or Dare and Fantasy Island’s Jeff Wadlow, we’re told about the power of imagination. It’s imagination that made Imaginary’s Jessica (DeWanda Wise) become a children’s book writer and author, and it’s seemingly imagination that made Jessica’s step-daughter Alice (Pyper Braun) start talking to a teddy bear named Chauncey she found in her basement. Yet Imaginary is packed with generic, clichéd characters, odd narrative choices, and zero actual reasons to be scared, to the point that oddly, Imaginary lacks any imagination. That is, unless you’re imagining that you want to see one of the worst films to come out this year.

What Is ‘Imaginary’ About?
In Imaginary, Jessica moves into her childhood home with her husband, Max (Tom Payne), and her step-daughters, the stuck-up teenager, Taylor (Taegen Burns) and the younger Alice. Jessica moved out of the house when she was 5 after her mother died of cancer and some unknown incident left her father changed. Alice finds a teddy bear in the basement that she calls Chauncey, and what seems like just an imaginary friend starts to become more disturbing. Alice starts talking to Chauncey and it seems like she hears him talking back. When Chauncey puts together a strange scavenger hunt for Alice to play with, it becomes clear that there might be more to this teddy bear. As Jessica’s friendship grows, this bond could also be the key to understanding Jessica’s unremembered childhood.

‘Imaginary’s Screenplay Is an Absolute Mess

The problems with Imaginary start from the bottom up, and that begins with a terrible screenplay. Written by Wadlow, as well as Greg Erb and Jason Oremland (writers of The Princess and the Frog…as well as Monster High: The Movie and Playmobil: The Movie), Imaginary’s story is just packed with absolute nonsense, scenes that serve no purpose, and segments that undermine the intelligence of their audience. Take, for example, the inclusion of Gloria (Betty Buckley), a neighbor who used to babysit Jessica and happens to know far too much about the imaginary friend situation going on. Gloria isn’t just an expert, she’s literally written a book on children’s imaginary friends. Gloria is little more than a tool to spout off exposition and an attempt to make some sense out of this story—yet she fails to do even that.

We also meet Liam (Matthew Sato), a neighbor whom Taylor takes a liking to, who is irritating from the moment we meet him, and gets invited over to Taylor’s house to…give her something to do other than being annoyed at her stepmom? Which, to be fair, considering how many things are going wrong in this house, Jessica is strangely content with allowing Taylor to play by herself without any supervision, or just flat-out leave these kids on their own at the drop of a hat.

Without giving anything away, Imaginary also pretends that major moments in the third act are huge shocks. However, anyone who has managed to stay awake this long in the film should easily be able to figure out any of the film’s “twists” and “turns.” One connection between Jessica and Alice should be immediately obvious to those barely paying attention, and one villain reveal is so clear from the beginning that this revelation is laughable—and is then followed by an even more ludicrous scene of surprise violence.

‘Imaginary’s Story Is Full of Scenes That Serve No Purpose
Image via Blumhouse

There are also large chunks of this story that go absolutely nowhere. In one scene, the troubled mother of Taylor and Alice breaks into the house, and after she’s been taken away by the police, her presence is never spoken of again. After a scene that should be traumatizing, Max decides it’s okay to leave his new wife and his daughters to go on tour with his band—a job we don’t know he has until he’s literally abandoning his family with guitar in hand. There are even mentions of physical abuse that Jessica and Alice have shared that doesn’t serve any real purpose, other than to make the point that people live with the scars that they’ve received over their lives—which doesn’t even really make sense to the story that’s being told. Imaginary feels like one pass was done of the script, or that these scenes were written on the day, without any consideration of how anything tied together or worrying about things like narrative cohesion and character consistency.

Speaking of characters, Imaginary is a cast packed with clichés, with the exasperated teen, the creepy child who everyone ignores for far too long, and the mother who is several steps behind the audience. These performances are over-the-top, frequently ludicrous, and often downright silly. Again, that likely has more to do with the poor writing and directing choices than these actors. Having a child actor attempt to be a maniacal and vengeful spirit is completely unfair to said actor, and most of the film’s “scares” come from ludicrous makeup choices, like giant bug eyes for no damned reason. It’s not these actor’s fault that they’re an amalgamation of tropes you’ve seen in countless other crappy PG-13 horror movies.

This Story About Imagination Is Lacking Imagination
Image via Blumhouse

But Imagination’s lack of vision or any semblance of good ideas certainly makes itself clear in the third act. We’re shown a place that is supposedly made of pure imagination, and yet, it’s so derivative of M.C. Escher paintings and any hall of mirrors you might’ve walked into at a dumpy carnival. Given all the possibilities that imagination can provide, this is the best thing that Wadlow and co. can come up with? At the very least, Wadlow does do some clever tricks with the camera in this section, but these are little more than a few seconds of pleasant surprise in a film that, by this point, will leave you ready to sacrifice yourself to Chauncey instead of having it go on any longer.

Yet maybe Imaginary’s most egregious sin is that it’s not scary in the least, and it’s not even really trying that hard. Again, considering that this is literally a movie that is about imagination, it’s painful how there is none to be found here. It’s a similar problem with many of Wadlow’s films, which seem more like one-line elevator pitches (What is Fantasy Island was actually about murder? What if truth or dare led to death?) come to life than actual films. Wadlow will often have a spider monster lurking in the shadows of the film, yet considering that he begins the movie by giving us our best look at what this creature is, any suspense later on is immediately taken out of the film. From then on, Imaginary is only unsettling if you don’t like teddy bears slightly moving or heads turned askew in a family portrait.

Imaginary is a concept with potential, but none of that is seen in Wadlow’s film.Imaginary is top-to-bottom a mess, a frustrating mishmash of bad choices that never goes anywhere interesting. A few times throughout Imaginary, someone compares Chauncey to Bing Bong from Inside Out, and it’s honestly more enjoyable thinking about that far superior Pixar film for a few fleeting moments than watching this film. Imaginary is a horror disaster that not even imaginary characters should go see.

Imaginary REVIEWImaginary is a mess of a horror film, with poor narrative choices, obvious twists, and clichéd characters.ProsDirector Jeff Ladlow gets to occasionally make some compelling directing choices in the third act. ConsImaginary’s plot is packed with scenes that go nowhere or are filled with choices that make no sense.For a horror film, there’s a shocking lack of scares throughout.In a film all about imagination, Imaginary lacks any semblance of creativity.

Imaginary is now playing in theaters in the U.S. Click below for showtimes.

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Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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