Imaginary (2024) poster

Imaginary (2024)


USA. 2024.


Director – Jeff Wadlow, Screenplay – Greg Erb, Jason Oremland & Jeff Wadlow, Producers – Jason Blum & Jeff Wadlow, Photography – James McMillan, Music – Sparks & Shadows, Visual Effects – Crafty Apes LLC (Supervisor – Chris M. Cooper), Special Effects Supervisor – Mik Kastner, Creature Effects – Spectral Motion, Inc., Makeup Effects – Mike Elizalde, Production Design – Meghan C. Rogers. Production Company – Blumhouse/Tower of Babble Productions.


DeWanda Wise (Jessica Barnes), Pyper Braun (Alice), Taegan Burns (Taylor), Betty Buckley (Gloria), Tom Payne (Max), Veronica Falcon (Dr Soto), Samuel Salary (Ben Barnes), Matthew Sato (Liam)


Jessica Barnes, a successful children’s book author, moves into her childhood home in Springwood, Los Angeles, with her husband, the rock musician Max and his two daughters Taylor and Alice. In the basement, Alice finds a teddy bear and adopts it as her imaginary companion Chauncey. Max goes away on tour, leaving Jessica to look after the girls. Jessica becomes disturbed at the things that Chauncey is telling Alice to do. Through this, she comes to believe that Chauncey is alive. This in turn draws her back to forgotten memories from her own childhood that lie in wait for her return.

Blumhouse have produced some fairly good films since the start of the 2010s. They have had a great deal of success with the Paranormal Activity, Insidious and The Purge films, Get Out (2017) and a good many others – see bottom of the page for a list of these. However, Blumhouse’s films have been on a major downslope since the start of the 2020s – recent fare such as the Halloween sequels, Firestarter (2022) and The Exorcist: Believer (2023) are seriously dragging the brand name down. Even recent theatrical releases such as Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023) and Night Swim (2024) have a blandness at the centre that is critically killing the Blumhouse name. At the same time, some of their best recent films like Torn Hearts (2022) and Unseen (2023) are well worthwhile pieces that are shuffled to the no man’s land of streaming dumping without any fanfare in favour of that which has IP recognition factor.

Imaginary is the third film for Blumhouse from Jeff Wadlow, following Truth or Dare (2018) and Fantasy Island (2020). Wadlow is a director who has made some good work – I am a fan of his earliest slasher outing Cry Wolf (2005) – but his best work has not been with Blumhouse. Everything about Imaginary shouts out a film that is generic and predictable. The pacing, the jumps, the casting, the creature – everything in the film has the feel that it could have been designed by committee and that all that Wadlow was required to turn up and announce when action is to occur and then go home for the day. I have rarely seen a film that operates so much by autopilot before.

The Imaginary Companion has a long history on film going back to at least Harvey (1950), the hilarious classic of the field, which has never been bettered. For many years, the imaginary companion became synonymous with the imaginary childhood companion as in films such as Drop Dead Fred (1991), Bogus (1996) and Imagine That (2009), the upcoming Ryan Reynolds film If (2024) or the bizarreness of Jojo Rabbit (2019). There have been some horror uses, going back to arguably The Curse of the Cat People (1944) and Donnie Darko (2001) to films like Hide and Seek (2005), The Babadook (2014), Benny Loves You (2019) and Daniel Isn’t Real (2019). And that’s not even touching the whole field of films about people with invisible ghost companions. (For Films About Invisible and Imaginary Companions for a more detailed listing).

Young Pyper Braun and Chauncey the bear in Imaginary (2024)
Young Pyper Braun and Chauncey the imaginary bear

The latter sections of Imaginary enter into the realm of imagination – although for a place where children’ imagination resides, it does look awfully gloomy and sinister. There is a lot of sinister running around and jumpshocks that fail to achieve anything even vaguely memorable 30 seconds later. Even the big Conceptual Reversal Twist about the nature of the teddy bear that comes about two-thirds of the way through has feel of something gimmicky that has been thrown into the mix just to enliven proceedings, as does the scene near the end where one character abruptly reveals sinister intentions all along, only to be slaughtered seconds later.

The whole sinister imaginary companion film was done far better by Adam Egypt Mortimer’s Daniel Isn’t Real. The creepy giant insect-like scuttling about in the dark was done far better recently by Cobweb (2023). Even the venture through the Portal into the realm of the imagined world has been done far more creatively by the Pang Brothers in Re-Cycle (2006).

Jeff Wadlow had previously made the slasher Cry Wolf (2005), the martial arts film Never Back Down (2008), Kick-Ass 2 (2013), the non-genre True Memoirs of an International Assassin (2016), Truth or Dare (2018), the film remake of tv’s Fantasy Island (2020) and the Halloween film The Curse of Bridge Hollow (2022). Wadlow also wrote the script for the Vin Diesel action film Bloodshot (2020). He has also acted as a producer on the tv series’ Bates Motel (2013-7), The Strain (2014-7) and Are You Afraid of the Dark? (2019-21).

Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company have produced a number of other genre films including:- Hamlet (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007) and sequels, Insidious (2010) and sequels, Tooth Fairy (2010), The Bay (2012), The Lords of Salem (2012), The River (tv series, 2012), Sinister (2012) and sequel, Dark Skies (2013), Oculus (2013), The Purge (2013) and sequels, the tv mini-series Ascension (2014), Creep (2014), Jessabelle (2014), Mercy (2014), Mockingbird (2014), Not Safe for Work (2014), Ouija (2014) and sequel, 13 Sins (2014), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014), Area 51 (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), Curve (2015), The Gallows (2015), The Gift (2015), Jem and the Holograms (2015), The Lazarus Effect (2015), Martyrs (2015), Visions (2015), The Visit (2015), The Darkness (2016), Hush (2016), Incarnate (2016), The Veil (2016), Viral (2016), Amityville: The Awakening (2017), Get Out (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), The Keeping Hours (2017), Split (2017), Stephanie (2017), Bloodline (2018), Cam (2018), Delirium (2018), Halloween (2018), Seven in Heaven (2018), Truth or Dare (2018), Upgrade (2018), Black Christmas (2019), Ma (2019), Prey (2019), Don’t Let Go (2019), Sweetheart (2019), Black Box (2020), The Craft: Legacy (2020), Freaky (2020), The Hunt (2020), The Invisible Man (2020), Nocturne (2020), You Should Have Left (2020), Black As Night (2021), The Black Phone (2021), Dashcam (2021), Firestarter (2022), M3gan (2022), Mr Harrigan’s Phone (2022), Nanny (2022), Soft & Quiet (2022), Run Sweetheart Run (2022), Sick (2022), They/Them (2022), The Visitor (2022), Torn Hearts (2022), Unhuman (2022), The Exorcist: Believer (2023), Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023), There’s Something Wrong With the Children (2023), Totally Killer (2023), Unseen (2023) and Night Swim (2024).

Trailer here

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