Imaginary Review – IGN

The Target Audience for Imaginary

Adults are not the target audience for Imaginary. This latest Blumhouse flick is clearly meant for mall rats and slumber parties – a fact made obvious not just by its PG-13 rating, but also by a 15-year-old character who repeatedly drops the name of Bing Bong, the imaginary friend from Pixar’s Inside Out. That’s not to say there weren’t grown-ups who bawled their eyes out over the pink chimera’s fate in 2015. But that scene probably made a bigger impression on the moviegoers who were kids then, and who have since graduated to the relatively scarier exploits of Freddy Fazbear and M3GAN.

Imaginary: A Teen Scream

Imaginary is about evil imaginary friends, so it makes sense that kids are top of mind. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be the only ones who can enjoy it. The latest from Fantasy Island and Truth or Dare director Jeff Wadlow is a great teen scream, full of jump scares and adolescent antics. It’s also so earnestly absurd that it may be a future camp classic.

Imaginary Gallery

The main character is Jessica (DeWanda Wise), who moves back into her childhood home with her husband, Max (Tom Payne), and two stepdaughters, Alice (Pyper Braun) and Taylor (Taegen Burns). We know something spooky definitely happened in this house when Jessica was a kid, thanks to lots of ominous music and imagery. She’s oblivious, just glad to be back in her “happy place.” When Alice wanders downstairs and finds a stuffed teddy bear that she names Chauncey, the creepiness begins. As Jessica slowly remembers more about her past, Chauncey takes Alice on a sinister scavenger hunt and starts terrorizing the household.

You could say Imaginary jumps the shark when a weirdo neighbor (Betty Buckley) appears, or when a child psychologist (Veronica Falcón) sets up shop following one of Chauncey’s nastier fetch quests. But it’s all the little touches that makes this movie so deliciously unhinged. Jessica’s husband, a rock star in the ludicrously named band Burning Cats, looks like the love child of Harry Styles and Johnny Depp. In one scene, as he and Jessica discuss Alice’s wellbeing, she helps him remove his multiple jangly necklaces. Alice and Taylor’s mom is in a psych ward, and we never learn why. During a climactic scene, Jessica tosses off the word “impale” with hilarious nonchalance – as if it were part of her everyday vocabulary.

Fun Scares and Performances

If you want good storytelling, you won’t get it from Imaginary. What you will get is some fun, inventive scares and performances that are all over the map. Matthew Sato is definitely the weakest link as the family’s bad boy neighbor, while Braun admirably commits to Alice’s many ups and downs. Wise, who’s also credited as an executive producer, is giving it her all, like she thought she was on the hook for another Spike Lee joint and then stumbled onto this shoot instead.

The production design also elevates this film in unexpected ways. Jessica’s bed has about five too many throw pillows, but the house otherwise looks like these characters actually live in it. Jessica’s childhood drawings play a huge role in the narrative, and rather than going for the usual dour etchings that plague nearly every horror movie, the film’s artists conjure up vibrant, girlish art that actually feels, well, imaginative. Plus, in a movie with multiple creepy creatures, the scariest one is made with practical effects – horror-fan water in a desert of CGI.

Everything that’s terrible about Imaginary is also, weirdly, awesome

Imaginary is ridiculous and overwritten and the ending is abrupt, blundering through the climax before falling flat on its face. But everything that’s terrible about it is also, weirdly, awesome. This isn’t M3GAN, which wore its silliness like a badge of honor. This is a movie that mostly plays it straight, even when it’s spewing absolute nonsense. Intentional camp is great, but it’s even better when it happens by accident.