Tuesday 2 April 2024

Imaginary (2024)

Considering how weak many of his movies are, I have seen quite a few of the movies directed by Jeff Wadlow. I would recommend some of them, others I would encourage you to avoid, but he certainly seems to be doing a good enough job to be allowed to keep helming some slick, and often fairly bloodless, mainstream horror movies. He also co-wrote this screenplay with Greg Erb and Jason Oremland, which allows me to feel no guilt as I put most of the blame on him for just how weak and dull this is.

DeWanda Wise is Jessica, stepmother to a moody teen (Taylor, played by Taegen Burns) and a younger little girl (Alice, played by Pyper Braun). Her partner, the father of the girls, is a man named Max (Tom Payne), but the movie gets him out of the way very quickly, ensuring that he has no actual character development while the focus stays on Jessica and the girls. Alice starts to spend more and more time in the company of an imaginary friend, Chauncey, and her behaviour becomes more troubling. It also quickly becomes obvious, to Jessica anyway, that Chauncey may not be as imaginary as most imaginary friends.

While they have been in the industry for some time, nothing in the filmographies of Wadlow, Erb, or Oremland made me optimistic about Imaginary, and I was right to approach it with caution. I am not saying this to be pithy or clever, but the biggest thing working against it is a lack of real imagination. The first half of the movie feels like every other horror movie we have seen featuring a woman trying to develop some kind of bond with step-children who are starting to pull further away from her. There is a sinister undercurrent to the childish playtime of young Alice, and a number of conversations start to hint at the fact that Jessica may be forgetting a time in her life when she was acting very much like Alice. All very predictable and obvious stuff, and the big finale delivers nothing to make the slog worthwhile, hampered by a lack of scale and an inability to dive fully into the darkness.

Wise is decent enough as the central adult, doing everything that is asked of her as things get slightly more ridiculous with every minute of the runtime, Burns is a very standard moody teen, and Braun is almost a typical little girl, although she suffers at the hands of writers that make her a bit too unpleasant every now and again. Betty Buckley is a neighbour who helps to reveal details from the past, Samuel Salary is the hospitalized father of our lead, and one or two others appear to either receive a fright or look bemused by the developing situation.

I am sure that this will still do enough to satisfy mainstream cinema patrons who want some chills and thrills during their visit, but I don’t see it having any appeal for anyone who has already started to take a deeper dive into the delights and terrors offered up by the horror genre. Visually lacklustre, written with barely enough energy to transition effectively from one scene to the next, and lacking the ability to even make the most of the jump scares, this is a complete waste of time, especially when there have been one or two horror movies from the past decade that feature more terrifying imaginary friends causing terror and havoc.

Not the worst horror film I have seen this year, but it certainly puts itself forward as a strong contender.


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  1. It reminds me of "Hide and Seek" with Robert de Niro and Dakota Fanning, which I watched most of one night on local TV. At least until with about half an hour left the TV station suddenly put on a rerun of "Friends" right before the big reveal about the "imaginary friend." It was a while before I finally watched the whole thing on Prime Video.

    1. I remember quite enjoying Hide And Seek for what it was. Not seen it since it first hit the rental market though.