Imaginary (2024)

‘Imaginary’ movie review: Blumhouse’s demonic teddy bear film is overstuffed


A haunted teddy bear torments a put-upon stepmother in Imaginary, a new Blumhouse horror movie opening in Prague cinemas from March 14 after bowing in the states last weekend. This initially derivative horror film goes so wild in its third act that one can’t help but admire its audacity, though anyone looking for scares or storytelling coherency may have abandoned the movie by that point.

Imaginary stars DeWanda Wise (Jurassic World Dominion) as artist and new stepmother Jessica, who spends the film’s opening sequence being chased by a giant spider-monster through a haunted house… or does she? No, it was all just a dream, featuring a spooky character from her series of children’s books. Imaginary will pull this rug-pull trick at least three more times before the credits roll.

At the film’s outset, Jessica and new husband Max (Tom Payne, Jesus from The Walking Dead) move into her childhood home after Jessica’s abusive father Ben (Samuel Salary) is institutionalized. Along with them are Max’s two daughters from a previous marriage, feisty teenager Taylor (Taegen Burns) and precious young Alice (Pyper Braun).

Alice discovers a beat-up teddy bear in the basement, and it becomes her new not-so-imaginary friend. But there’s something off about Chauncey the Bear, whether it’s the deep voice Alice puts on to speak for it, or the creepy tune that plays when you pull the string on its back, or the giant monster it morphs into if you’ve taken too much allergy medication.

What’s going on? Like last year’s The Boogeyman or Cobweb, Imaginary is playing the coy horror game, framing its goings-on as inherently spooky without telling the audience exactly why we should be terrified of this inanimate object. Is the teddy bear possessed by a demon? Is Alice interacting with a ghost? Or is it another The Boy situation, with a killer hiding inside the walls and manipulating the bear when nobody’s looking?

Imaginary‘s first act culminates with a big red herring twist. It’s second act climaxes with the film’s real secret, laboriously explained through two separate five-minute exposition dumps by child psychiatrist Dr. Soto (Veronica Falcón) and elderly neighbor Gloria (Betty Buckley, in an bizarrely subdued performance that recalls her infamous turn in The Happening).

Once all the cards are one the table, we might expect Imaginary to wrap things for a quick finale. Instead, the final half-hour of the movie turns into a German expressionist horror film, packed with some truly imaginative sets and wild creature design utilizing practical effects. It’s absolutely bonkers, and worth the price of admission alone.

It’s also so out-there it becomes comedic, in a Beetlejuice kind of way, and so out of tune with the rest of the movie that audiences who had bought into the earlier ghost story are likely to reject it outright. But for others, the craft that went into Imaginary‘s finale is downright endearing, and keeps this one from becoming another disposable Blumhouse outing a la January’s Night Swim.

For what’s being sold as a horror film, Imaginary is almost completely bereft of scares, but the twisty nature of the screenplay credited to director Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) and Greg Erb & Jason Oremland (The Playmobil Movie) is enough to keep us at least mildly engaged throughout a longish running time. Wadlow was previous responsible for the much-derided Blumhouse outings Truth or Dare and Fantasy Island; Imaginary is a small step up, but not a giant leap.



Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at

One Response

  1. Just want to say I was really impressed with the creature f/x in this movie. Not a great film by any means and the story is weak but there’s some real vision and heart in the last 20 minutes.

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