Shocking: Possessed Toy Stars in ‘Imaginary’ – The Unbearably Dull Movie You Won’t Believe!

By the time you’ve finished “Imaginary,” a low-budget plunge into juvenile terror, your mental checklist should be brimming with things to do. Given the lack of engaging content in this PG-13 feature, particularly the overhyped, lopsided teddy bear named Chauncey portrayed as the movie’s demonic toy, you’ll need something to keep your mind occupied.

When children create imaginary playmates, it illustrates their creativity during idle moments and the resilience and efficiency of their minds. Honestly, if you asked any child to revise this screenplay (attributed to director Jeff Wadlow, Greg Erb, and Jason Oremland), you’d probably end up with something far more vibrant, exciting, and eerie than the bland entertainment served up here.

“Imaginary” follows in the wake of the newly minted date-night favorite “M3GAN” (also a Blumhouse production), which set a standard for exploiting a distressed child’s playtime, offering a surprisingly in-depth exploration of technology-era attractions and apprehensions. “Imaginary” shares a similar foundation of dysfunctional family emotions: Sincere stepmother and children’s book illustrator Jessica (played by DeWanda Wise) believes that relocating everyone to her old childhood home will strengthen her bond with her new husband’s (an insignificant Tom Payne) gloomy daughters.

Teenager Taylor (Taegen Burns) sulks and backtalks, while young Alice (Pyper Braun) is delighted to find a skinny, red-vested bear (where else?) behind a hidden door in a creepy basement. Chauncey quickly establishes a remarkable and increasingly threatening influence over Alice, who repeats what he tells her, which stirs up Jessica’s own suppressed trauma.

While “M3GAN” fully embraced the cult-like potential of a malevolent toy, “Imaginary” neglects the mandate to entertain, resulting in a film as rigid, mundane, and gloomy as a placeholder in March can be. When Betty Buckley’s grandmotherly academic character appears to provide a quick lesson in the cultural history of children with imaginary friends, an already weak movie suddenly feels as dull as a school assignment. (Since when did horror writers feel obligated to spell everything out? Oh, “The Innocents,” take me away.)

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Frankly, Wadlow struggles with directing actors. His main actress, Wise, has a strong screen presence, but she never seems to be genuinely wrestling with nightmares, troubled stepchildren, a creative block, a father in a nursing home, and the aftermath of a disastrous family relocation. This awkwardness is consistently present: Whenever two characters in the same scene are supposed to be familiar with each other, they come off as strangers. Wadlow even manages to make a stationary stuffed animal appear badly directed.

However, Chauncey is the least of Wadlow’s concerns when the structure built around these moments feels more like a formulaic task than a genuine dive into hair-raising horror. As the movie’s final act shifts to a world behind a portal – remember, we have a character here named Alice – “Imaginary” seems to abandon any effort to truly disturb us, hoping that a last-minute dose of CGI twists will suffice. Just as children can outgrow their make-believe friends, so too can horror fans outgrow uninspired duds like this.

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