Blumhouse's new film IMAGINARY is "horror lite"...but it's still a lot of jump-scary fun

DeWanda Wise as Jessica and Pyper Braun as Alice in Imaginary. Photo Credit: Parrish Lewis
DeWanda Wise as Jessica and Pyper Braun as Alice in Imaginary. Photo Credit: Parrish Lewis /

Horror fans are a hard lot to please these days. Slow burn films such as Hereditary as dismissed as “boring,” and PG-13 films like M3GAN are criticized for their lack of blood and gore. It just seems like people sometimes forget that Halloween and even The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were NOT bloody and graphic.

And, I will admit that I used to feel the same way. When I purchased my ticket for 2010’s Devil, I was shocked to find out that it was rated PG-13, and immediately wished I hadn’t bothered. But I stepped into the theatre auditorium anyway, and ended up being glad that I did. Devil was truly frightening, with a great story and talented actors. After that, I decided not to focus on the ratings of horror movies.

To be fair, I think I am a rarity, though. I love all kinds of horror – bloody, gore-free, “elevated,” campy, deadly serious, comedy/horror, emotional – all of it. Of course, there are horror movies that I know aren’t going to appeal to me, which is why I still haven’t seen Terrifier or The Human Centipede. But, Hereditary hit me right in the heart, and I thought Shudder’s Deadstream was one of the best films of 2022.

So, when I first saw the trailer for Imaginary, I was open to the idea of it. I enjoyed another Blumhouse film, M3GAN, with its campiness and jump scares, and the idea of an imaginary friend in the form of a cute, fluffy teddy bear sounded promising.

I went to see Imaginary on opening night with a group of my friends (we call ourselves the Horror Movie Club). There are six of us, and you know what? Every one of us enjoyed the movie. The scares aren’t super-intense, it’s not gory (there are a couple of scenes with blood present, but nothing overly gratuitous), and there are some odd choices made with the plot points.

Imaginary key art
IMAGINARY - Courtesy Blumhouse /

But, I found the acting performances to be strong. I do love a good “kid in peril” horror project, but a weak kid actor will pull me right out of story. Thankfully, Pyper Braun is great (and sympathetic) as
Alice, the little girl who makes the unfortunate choice to accept Chauncy the bear’s offer of friendship.

Jessica (DeWanda Wise), her husband Max (Tom Payne) and his two daughters Alice and Taylor (Taegen Burns) are moving into Jessica’s childhood home. The girls’ mother suffers from mental illness, and Alice literally bears the scars from it. Taylor is a teenager, and resents her stepmother’s attempts to bond with them.

While exploring the new house, Alice discovers a stuffed bear in the basement, and he quickly becomes her bestie/imaginary friend. As Jessica discovers, Chauncey has persuaded Alice to play a scavenger hunt game that includes tasks such as “something that scares you,” and “something that hurts.” The goal is to check off the entire list, after which Chauncey promises to take Alice on a trip to a special place.

Luckily, Alice is stopped from hurting herself too badly, and begins to realize that Chauncey is not such a good friend after all. With Max off touring with his band, Jessica, Taylor and neighbor Gloria (who babysit Jessica when she was little) are soon on a terrifying trek to find Alice, who has disappeared.

The plot gets a little convoluted at this point, and the ending is a little sloppy, but that didn’t change the fact that Imaginary was overall a fun movie with some pretty decent jump scares.

Is it appropriate for kids? If you have an older child who isn’t easily spooked, Imaginary should be fine for them to watch. But it’s not a kiddie movie, despite what some people are claiming. A teddy bear is an iconic toy for children, and young kids (or those who are easily scared) might not enjoy watching the evil Chauncey at work.