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He said, she said: ‘Imaginary’

Garrett Hartman, he, and Ariana Powell, she, reviews the horror film “Imaginary”
Pyper Braun as Alice in “Imaginary.” Photo credit: Parrish Lewis/Lionsgate

Released March 8 by Blumhouse Pictures, directed and co-written by Jeff Wadlow, “Imaginary” is a film that explores the relationship between a little girl and her new imaginary friend, but this friend is not as harmless as he seems.

He said:

“Imaginary” is another film which riffs off of the recent trend in media where something cute and childish is made to be scary. This was a somewhat interesting subversion a decade ago when the first “Five Nights at Freddy’s” game came out. 

However, the oversaturation of the genre with other games like “Poppy Playtime” and Blumhouse’s own film adaptation of the progenitor game back in October have made the already overdone genre ridiculously stale. 

Imaginary brings nothing new to the table. At least Blumhouse’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s” film was able to play off the nostalgia of people like me who, even as embarrassing as it is to admit, were obsessed with the games back in middle school. 

Ironically for a movie centered around the imagination of children, “Imaginary” is wholly uninspired and uninteresting. The film centers around a family of tropes with a well meaning step-parent who just can’t get through to their adoptive angsty teen and younger sibling.

The youngest daughter Alice finds a stuffed bear named Chauncey who becomes her imaginary friend. While at first Alice’s relationship with Chauncey seems cute and harmless, she quickly begins acting erratically.

A few mediocre horror sequences, a twist and climax in which the children and step-parent must come together to save their family and you have “Imaginary.” The film’s biggest sin is just how boring it is. A simple story well executed can be admirable and compelling but “Imaginary” doesn’t maintain interest. 

The film isn’t scary with only two real horror sequences, both of which got me to laugh more than create any sense of tension. This wouldn’t be a bad thing in a film trying to have a tongue-in-cheek feel; but if that is the case why are the characters and plot so uninteresting?

By the end of the film when it was playing its most creative and interesting hand, I was struggling to stay awake. The film isn’t one of the worst things I’ve ever seen, largely it was competently made, but that’s all there really is to say about it.

It’s not very good but everyone did their job well enough. Really that’s almost worse than just being a bad movie. There can be some fun in watching a bad movie with large fundamental flaws but nothing about this movie is so bad to inspire any sort of passion or fun. 

Maybe some of the ridiculous effects like the discount “Coraline” beady eyes, but even this is derivative and brief.

I wouldn’t recommend “Imaginary.” If you’re not looking for a good movie, there are far worse movies that at the very least aren’t a slog. 

She said:

If you’ve already seen films like “Insidious,” “The Boogeyman” or “The Babadook,” there’s no point in watching “Imaginary.” You’ve already seen it, except it doesn’t have the same creativity as the aforementioned films.

It’s the usual story about parenthood: the dad leaves his teenage and young daughters behind with their stepmother, she continues to try to bond with them. The teen is too angsty to care and the kid gets distracted by her imaginary friend, a stuffed bear named Chauncey.

The film makes the point that everyone has an imaginary friend — which, by the way, I dispute. I never had one, but I felt left out, and so made one up to be like the other kids … she and I grew very close — but it is very clear from the start that there’s more to Chauncey than meets the eye.

Chauncey tells her to go on a scavenger hunt, which has a dangerous and dark side.

It’s after this the film follows the usual plot as the stepmother realizes something is wrong and then tries to fix it.

I have to admire the smooth inclusion of a child psychologist to help the young girl; it helps promote accessing mental health help from a young age.

The possession scare tactics seemed highly juvenile, such as resorting to using the child’s voice as the entity’s voice and using monster animatronics that look straight out of “Pooka” or “Re/Member.”

It also seems to copy elements existent in “Coraline,” from the little door to the strange spider demon. All that was missing was the yellow raincoat and a good storyline.

Garrett Hartman and Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected].

Ariana Powell can also be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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