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‘Imaginary’ Review: Could Anyone Imagine A Better Movie?

Blumhouse’s latest venture in the horror genre, Imaginary, is now in theatres but does it truly live up to expectations? We plan to divulge that lesson.

Beware, this article will contain spoilers for the 2024 film Imaginary.

'Imaginary' Review - Could Anyone Imagine A Better Movie?
Imaginary / Image Courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment

Jeff Wadlow’s new film, Imaginary, is everything wrong with the horror genre today. It is bland, franchisable, and something this film fundamentally shouldn’t be… unimaginative.

The film follows a family who move back into the matriarch’s childhood home where Alice (Pyper Braun), the youngest in the family, makes friends with a teddy bear named Chauncey. Soon, the household is haunted by a sinister presence. As the runtime plays out, more pieces of this mystery fall into place revealing a bigger picture that’s more connected to stepmother Jessica (DeWanda Wise) than you may be led to believe.

This all sounds good on paper (albeit full of tropes) but a lack of cohesive filmmaking ruins the pace and immersion. The script is mainly to blame here, often taking the viewer out of the film’s world-building. The cast lacks chemistry and despite being introduced as a family affair, many of the members do not have enough runtime and really should not have been in the film at all.

Max (Tom Payne), who is the biological father of Alice and Taylor (Taegen Burns), does not appear for more than three scenes despite being the main connection between Jessica and the two girls featured in this film. This lack of a role brings an absence of coherency in the dynamic between these characters.

Imaginary / Image Courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment

Parts of the writing allow the viewer to see some good interesting ideas such as the sinister-looking woman in the corner of one of the daughter’s images. These are good and scary while they last but are quickly ruined when the aforementioned woman is just an elderly neighbour trying to contact Jessica. This woman also serves as an exposition dump, providing way too much information and ruining any sort of mystery the film had managed to cling to well into the second act.

The film even lacks a visual draw, often feeling too dark to see anything or just uninteresting to look at. Although, the blue aesthetic created by the film’s crew is interesting and pleasant enough to the eye that you can’t call it ugly by any means. The antagonist of the film, Chauncey, may be threatening on the surface, but is hardly dangerous when he does not pose a physical threat to any character and just wants to pamper them in a “secret place”.

This secret place is called The Never Ever, and although officially inspired by Pan’s Labyrinth, you can’t help but see the resemblance to one of Blumhouse’s most famous film locations… The Further. In the Insidious franchise, the location is a metaphysical place where evil spirits want to take people and hold them captive. Although it has become a bit of a trope, I find it hard to believe that the two ideas are disconnected.

Imaginary / Image Courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment

The film also suffers severe pacing issues as well as being poorly structured. It feels as if the film could end about seven times over before it does and I do think the ending was slightly under-baked and if they did want to end on a stronger note, the cliffhanger should have been more threatening.

Now for some praise, as I don’t believe the film is a complete failure. The score by composer Bear McCreary is very strong and often creates suspense in the film whereas the writing failed to do so. It manages to make some of the more emotional scenes actually emotional as well as making your heart leap out of your body when something spooky occurs, so at least he was giving it his all. 

And finally, as a joke, I would like to point out the similarities to another Blumhouse film. If I had a dollar for every 2024 Blumhouse production where a family moves into a house and is haunted by a sinister presence but the patriarch of the said family is played by a The Walking Dead alum, I would have two dollars which isn’t much but, weirdly, it happened twice. Shout out to Night Swim!

Imaginary / Image Courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment

Jeff Wadlow’s Imaginary is ultimately an underbaked and poorly written film with some good elements that struggle to make the film watchable. With a couple more months in its writing stage, I could see this film being a lot better but do go watch this film for yourself and form your own opinion.

Imaginary is directed by Jeff Wadlow and is now available to watch in theatres. The film stars DeWanda Wise as Jessica, Pyper Braun as Alice, Taegen Burns as Taylor, and Tom Payne as Max.

If you liked this review, please be sure to check out some of our other articles and reviews here at Feature First. Thanks for reading!

Zanda is the Editor-in-Chief of Feature First and oversees the publishing of the outlet and content of the social media pages. He is based in Queensland, Australia and may or may not have a life like cardboard cut-out of Ryan Gosling in his room. Zanda has been actively turning Feature First into a reliable and high quality entertainment outlet since 2023.