Imaginary (2024) review

Imaginary is Jeff Wadlow’s latest collaboration with Blumhouse Productions, following from their previous combined projects, Fantasy Island (2020) and Truth or Dare (2018). Like every production house, there are filmic expectations, whether that be the dizzyingly raucous films from Troma Entertainment or the moody existentialist slow-burners from A24. And whilst Blumhouse has produced some utterly fantastic horrors such as The Bay (2012), Creep (2014), Get Out (2018), and Soft and Quiet (2022), the studio has more often than not come under fire for spewing out banal, cliched movies that lack any air of originality. Unfortunately, their latest venture, Imaginary, has hit screens with an overwhelmingly negative response thanks to its underdeveloped, muddled storyline and humdrum attempts to scare. 

Generically, Imaginary follows Jessica (DeWanda Wise), a children’s author who returns to her childhood home with her stepdaughters, Alice (Pyper Braun) and Taylor (Taegen Burns). However, chaos ensues when Alice discovers a stuffed teddy bear named Chauncey. 

With this in mind, the narrative has ample potential to be something eerie and dark, a tale of childhood frights and how they seep into the psyche. Yet, one of the film’s significant downfalls is how the ‘could-be-great’ capabilities are lost in all of the hullabaloo. In a nutshell, Jessica’s repressed childhood has unknowingly clouded most of her life and affected her more than she could have ever imagined; there is an unnecessary backstory surrounding Alice and Taylor’s troubled mother, which is joined by yet another subplot of this underground-like world called the ‘Never Ever’ that Chauncey unleashes. The story is further complicated by the fact that Chauncey’s physical materiality is a fabrication of Jessica and Alice’s minds, making frequent appearances to others somewhat confusing. Imaginary really outdoes itself because it cannot make up its mind, with underplots, lore, secondary storylines and tangled conclusions all fighting for attention for the entire film. 

The oversaturation is not offbeat or theatrical, where the excessiveness plays off as humorous or loveable enough to create a fanbase, as seen in the likes of 2023’s M3gan. Alternatively, Imaginary’s capacity to grasp its gratuitous plot and develop any sense of charm is completely missed. 

Furthering the vapidness is the almost nonsensical dialogue that features throughout. The lead actors, particularly Wise, are equipped with all the tools to make the film excel, yet the robotic script dulls any sparkle and makes not just the character’s physical actions confusing but also makes every monologue and essential piece of exposition fail. Take the character of Gloria (Betty Buckley), Jessica’s neighbour, whose sole purpose is to be an exposition provider. It is not uncommon for films to dedicate a scene for the lead to decipher the origins that are plaguing their situation. However, Gloria’s delivery of the backstory is akin to that of a wiki article. It’s a monotonous speech that reels off a PowerPoint presentation to Chauncey’s motives.

The singular hook that barely keeps Imaginary in the loop is the creature design of Chauncey when he enters beast-mode. His small teddy bear frame becomes towering, with his eyes shedding the shiny plastic beads, becoming bright red, and his sewn-shut mouth ripping open to reveal gnarly fangs. What makes this all the more impressive is that Chauncey’s form was created mainly using practical effects and animatronic tricks. These effects were created by none other than Spectral Motion, an effects design team that is known for their brilliant work on the likes of Stranger Things (2016-). If Imaginary had featured more of Chauncey’s dark side and beastly form, then the film’s overall themeatics would have had the opportunity to materialise. 

The film could have utilised its undertones and portrayed the manipulation of reality, how psychological illusions and repression lead to the destruction of the self. Chauncey’s villainy could have propelled the film away from its continuous jumpscare tactics and led the way with a more piercing take on the human condition if the script had been stripped back and allowed the effectiveness of its story beats and antagonist to shine.

Want more top horror lists and reviews? Check out our blog here..

Share this story

Dead Northern

Latest Horror News, Reviews & Interviews

Loading posts. Please wait.


SIGN UP for the Dead Northern NEWSLETTER for insider info and promotions for our Events and Merch!
And a chance to WIN our monthly mystery box, full of Dead Northern Merch!