“What bear?”

Main Cast: DeWanda Wise, Pyper Braun

Director: Jeff Wadlow

After hearing good things about the Jeff Wadlow-written and -directed 2024 movie IMAGINARY, my wife and I decided to check it out.  It wasn’t a terrible way to spend an afternoon.

I’d seen the trailer, knew when it was in theaters, but something about the idea, and the fact it’s a Blumhouse movie, just left me wary of giving it theater time.  For about 75% of this movie, I think that was my mistake.  Much like with the previous NIGHT SWIM, there are scenes in this movie that were most likely WAY better seen on the big screen.  So lesson learned.  Until it’s not because, really, while I want to see EVERY horror movie that’s produced, and as many of them on the big screen as possible, in an average week, I’m still working 6 days a week and there’s just not time.

IMAGINARY … I think I would have enjoyed most of it in the theater, though.

This movie is about our main character Jessica (DeWanda Wise, JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION) who’s just moved back into her childhood home with her new husband and his two daughters, Taylor (Taegen Burns, THE MIGHTY DUCKS: GAME CHANGERS) and Alice (Pyper Braun, DESPERATION ROAD).  Husband whose name I don’t remember and isn’t worth looking up because he’s in about 10 minutes, tops, is written out as “going on tour”—he’s a bass player—and it’s just Jessica at home with Taylor and Alice.  Oh, and Chauncy, Alice’s imaginary friend in the form of a stuffed bear she finds in the basement, behind a blocked door in a small storage room that looks like it’s been blocked off for a reason.

Jessica is an author and illustrator of children’s books who’s on a deadline for her next book, and so doesn’t have to go to a day job which means the entire story can take place at home.  While she’s hard at work looking for inspiration, Taylor is busy being a stereotypical movie teen full of angst and anger at her new “STEP mother” for moving them away from the life they knew, while Alice is busy gathering items for a scavenger hunt Chauncy has organized.

Items on her list include “something happy”, “a bowl”, “a paintbrush”, “something that would get you in BIG trouble”, “something that HURTS” … wait, what?

Well, that’s a weird thing for an imaginary friend to tell you to do … but this is a Blumhouse horror movie, so not so weird after all and just the type of thing you’d expect.

Things progress from there, from a pretty decent first act to a second act twist that, honestly, I didn’t see coming, but that made me sit up and take notice, which then leads to a silly and over the top act three that, well, just didn’t push all the right buttons for me.  It felt like Wadlow (TRUTH OR DARE, KICK-ASS 2) and company (there were two other writers on this movie, Greg Erb, and his writing partner Jason Oremland) had written themselves into a corner with a really strong story and execution, but had no idea how to raise the stakes and carry the idea into a proper, horror-centric third act.

But that won’t stop me from recommending IMAGINARY.  The performances are pretty good.  DeWanda Wise carries the movie, but Pyper Braun does a lot of heavy lifting here, too, and I can see her following the Dakota Fanning path to stardom.  I liked these characters, and I was interested in seeing how this premise played out.

There really isn’t a lot to say about IMAGINARY that you wouldn’t get from the trailer, honestly.  For the most part, right up until that act two twist, it’s exactly the movie you think it’s going to be, but it’s so well done, and you want to see where it goes with these characters, that you don’t even mind how formulaic it feels at times.

I just liked it.  I’m glad I bought it and have added it to our home collection.  In my opinion, IMAGINARY isn’t going to set the horror world on fire, but it’s a good way to spend an afternoon off work.

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