Home » ‘Imaginary’ Is a Lazy, Formulaic Misstep [Review]

‘Imaginary’ Is a Lazy, Formulaic Misstep [Review]


Imaginary is a new Blumhouse movie directed and produced by Jeff Wadlow, who some may recognize as being at the helm of Kick Ass 2. The film stars DeWanda Wise as Jessica, a children’s book author who marries musician Max (Tom Payne) and becomes a step-mom to his children Alice (Pyper Braun) and Taylor (Taegan Burns.) After Alice invents an imaginary friend named Chauncey, we begin to see things aren’t right in this new family.

Imaginary is Blumhouse’s follow-up to Night Swim, the commercially successful yet mediocre January horror movie some have already forgotten about. Imaginary fails to wake Blumhouse up from its January slumber. In fact, Imaginary is so mediocre and formulaic it left me feeling temporarily embarrassed to write about horror movies, as if any thrills to be found within them are so predictable and cheap that they do not even warrant comment after one exits the movie theater.

Imaginary follows a tedious and predictable formula: (1) Start with an innocent, everyday family living in peace. (2) Introduce a potential threat. (3) Raise the tension, throw in a jump scare, then bring the tension back down. (4) Show the innocent, everyday family returning back to their normal life, destroying any of the tension that was built up previously (long gone is the slow burning tension of 1978’s Halloween.) (5) Repeat steps one through four until you’re ready to have the family confront and defeat the CGI monster, thus resolving their deep-seated psychological issues and beginning a new, fully healed life.

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Oh, and don’t forget to throw in the same observations about grief made in so many other mainstream horror releases. Imaginary’s basic psychological message is: to heal, you have to go through some s**t. That’s a fine enough message, but by the time we’ve reached step five, the producers have realized the movie doesn’t make any sense, so they pivot to yet another cliche: the ‘self-aware’ movie that ‘doesn’t take itself seriously.’ It’s campy, yes, but it knows it! If you somehow managed to emotionally invest in this movie’s family dramatics, you are ultimately punished for being foolish enough to take it seriously.

And you know what? Maybe you deserve the punishment. I refuse to list every foolish moment in this movie, but please believe me when I say it’s full of them.

Perhaps just one example to illustrate my point. Throughout the movie, characters are haunted by Alice’s imaginary friend, a possessed teddy bear named Chauncey. Yet, spoiler alert: one of the major plot twists of the movie is that only Jessica and Alice can see him. Why? Because Chauncey was originally Jessica’s demonic imaginary friend, and now that Jessica has grown up and repressed the memories from the original haunting, he wants revenge and Alice is the bait. Yes, this movie seriously expects you to believe Jessica forgot all about being haunted by a demonic stuffed animal and didn’t remember the incident even after the bear returned for more ghoulery.

With the release of Imaginary, it’s clear Blumhouse’s cinematic ambitions have careened into a ditch by the side of an interstate highway. Blumhouse has sunk so low as to plagiarize its own movies. They got the idea for a possessed stuffed animal from their very own FNAF movie. Insidious has a red door. Imaginary has a blue one.

Blumhouse may have been able to retain a degree of artistic dignity if they had stuck to plagiarizing their past hits, but they chose to imitate their competitors too. We see a fake-out ending (just like Smile), lessons about grief borrowed from The Boogeyman (the demon represents generational trauma), and the “demon that always follows you” plot device is lifted from It Follows.

Some hardcore horror fans will be bored by the PG-13 rated Imaginary. However, more casual horror fans have already bought enough tickets to make this movie a box office success. Since money is the bottom line in Hollywood, that means we can expect more of these movies from Blumhouse. Some wouldn’t have it any other way, but I  prefer films with a bit more… imagination.

Wicked Rating: 5/10

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