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Written By:

Joel Harley

Blumhouse returns to familiar stomping grounds with Imaginary, a story about a malevolent entity who latches onto a small child (in this case, Pyper Braun), determined to snatch them away to their secret realm – The Further. Sorry, no, The Never Ever, it’s called this time.

It’s a formula that has worked well for the studio, scoring them five Insidious films, plus a less well-received one about a haunted swimming pool in Night Swim. And now it’s the turn of the imaginary friend to get scary.

Save your Bing Bong jokes – Imaginary is well ahead of you, and makes plenty of them itself. But Chauncey Bear is no cuddly pink elephant; an unsettling stuffed toy with a lopsided face and spooky button eyes. Sinister shape-shifter Chauncey is a great design and, in the right hands, we could have been looking at the next Pennywise or Freddy Krueger.

Sadly, these are the hands of Truth or Dare and Fantasy Island director Jeff Wadlow and Chauncey doesn’t get much chance to cut loose. Save for a scene between CB, Alice (Braun) and a therapist (Veronica Falcón) he’s fairly hopeless and less intimidating than one would hope. While the final act plays with Chauncey’s form a little (including some genuinely good practical effects), this supernatural horror story is disappointingly crayon-by-numbers – snatching wholesale from Poltergeist, Insidious and Coraline.

Visually and structurally, it’s unimpressive, too, and features reams of dialogue which shouldn’t have made it past the first draft. Star DeWanda Wise gamely gives it her all but is ill-served by the writing and clumsy character work; meanwhile, Braun and screen sister Taegan Burns give spirited performances but wind up on the wrong side of grating. Likewise, a one-note Betty Buckley and The Walking Dead star Tom Payne, whose stupid hat garnered the only reaction (a derisive laugh) from this theatre audience.

Imaginary is a disappointingly lackluster waste of talent and potential; a film about the power of imagination which has very little of its own.

IMAGINARY is out now in UK cinemas.


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