Imaginary review: "Blumhouse’s latest horror isn’t un-bear-able, but you might want to leave it on the shelf"

(Image: © Lionsgate)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Blumhouse’s latest isn’t un-bear-able, but you still might want to leave it on the shelf.

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Since horror stories have been told, dolls, puppets, and other toys have been at the center of many a scary tale. Teddy bears, however, have largely been absent from the genre due to their cute and fuzzy reputations; Blumhouse’s latest offering, Imaginary, attempts to change that. Ironically, though, it’s only when the film ditches the plushie that it starts to get interesting…

The movie follows Jessica (a fairly flat turn from Jurassic World: Dominion’s DeWanda Wise) as she moves her family – Tom Payne’s faceless, cookie-cutter ‘horror husband’ and two stepdaughters – into her childhood home. 

There, her new beau’s youngest Alice (Pyper Braun, the best actor of the bunch) discovers Jessica’s old ursine pal Chauncey in the basement and, as you’d expect, creepy stuff ensues. First Chauncey apparently wants Alice to fetch him some food, then a paintbrush, then something that’s happy… then something that makes her mad… then something that hurts. You get the idea.

There are some decent-enough scares weaved in, including a powerful cold open and a pull-string set piece. But for a film about the power of imagination, it’s frustrating how little it trusts the audience to use its own. As such, there’s no real sense of dread or suspense. 

When Alice threatens to physically harm herself, Jessica – by now, hubby has left on a music tour with his band, naturally – brings in a shrink, who drops some genuinely hilarious bombshells about the bad, bad bear. At this point, the film gets weird and is all the better for it, despite borrowing heavily from the likes of Insidious: The Red Door, which Blumhouse released only last year, and The Cabin in the Woods (2012). 

Still, offering up an inventive otherworldly realm, cool practical creature design and a gonzo finale isn’t enough to stop Imaginary from being another toothless, gummy (bear) outing from Truth or Dare’s (2018) Jeff Wadlow.

Imaginary is in US theaters and UK cinemas now. For more scares, here are the best horror movies to watch now and here's our guide to all of the upcoming horror movies on the way.

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Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.