Original title:Imaginary
Director:Jeff Wadlow
Running time:104 minutes
Release date:08 march 2024
1 chance in 19 million. More chance of being hit by a meteorite than of winning the lottery. For our lucky winners, the dream quickly turns into a nightmare, and their lives shatter in a spectacular display of black comedy and thrills.

Mulder's Review

Imaginary, the latest offering from Lionsgate and Blumhouse Productions, is an interesting addition to the psychological horror genre. Directed by Jeff Wadlow (Never back down (2008), Kick-Ass 2 (2013), Fantasy Island (2020)...) and starring DeWanda Wise as Jessica, a children's book illustrator struggling with her past, the film is a nuanced exploration of trauma, memory and the thin veil between reality and imagination. 

Set against the backdrop of Jessica's return to her childhood home, a place she considers her sanctuary, the story focuses on her attempt to navigate the complex dynamics of in-laws and settle into a new relationship. What the film loses in originality, despite an overly slow first half, it gains in its highly successful second act. It's clear that the director is a master at playing with the audience's nerves.

The discovery of an old teddy bear named Chauncey by Jessica's youngest daughter-in-law, Alice (Pyper Braun), serves as the catalyst for the story to unfold. What initially appears to be harmless child's play gradually turns into a series of disturbing events, as Alice's behavior becomes increasingly erratic. This seemingly simplistic plot is skilfully used to weave a narrative that blurs the boundaries between childhood innocence and the darkness of unresolved fears and hidden traumas.

One of the film's most commendable aspects is its second act, where it transcends its initial slow pace to unveil a narrative rich in depth and complexity. While the beginning may test the patience of some viewers, those who persist are rewarded with a sobering examination of psychological horror, reminiscent at times of that horror masterpiece The Cabin in the Woods (2012)). The film prefers to eschew cheap thrills in favor of a more substantial approach, tackling themes of dementia, loss, guilt and the impact of unresolved trauma. This thematic richness is reinforced by the actors' performances, particularly DeWanda Wise, whose portrayal of Jessica adds a layer of authenticity and empathy to the film's exploration of maternal and protective instincts.

However, Imaginary is not without its faults. The film sometimes falls prey to the conventions of its genre, and to counterbalance its lack of originality prefers to incorporate plot elements that may seem derivative to seasoned horror aficionados. Despite these moments of predictability, the film stands out for its atmospheric tension and psychological depth. It deftly plays with audience expectations, using the sinister teddy bear and Chauncey's haunting figure not only as scare tactics, but also as symbols of the darker aspects of the psyche the characters must confront.

The film's innovative marketing strategy, which relies on auditory sensations to build anticipation, illustrates Imaginary's creative vision. This approach, which emphasizes disquiet and suspense rather than the explicit, reflects the film's theme of the invisible, unspoken fears that shape our perception of reality. With a modest budget and a setting that exploits the atmospheric potential of New Orleans, Imaginary's production quality testifies to the efficient use of resources to create a captivating cinematic experience. 

Blumhouse productions seems to apply the same recipes found in all its productions, including taking a basic idea and developing it as far as possible on a shoestring budget. After the killer pool, here's the adorable-looking teddy bear, who turns out to be a diabolical creature with nothing to envy of the bestiary of creatures created by Stephen King in his novels. Showing the importance of drawings as a means of expression and, above all, the inspiration of fully committed artists, Imaginary is certainly a film worth discovering at the cinema.

Imaginary deserves to be discovered for its captivating narrative, solid performances and thoughtful exploration of psychological themes. While it doesn't redefine the horror genre, it does manage to offer a fresh perspective on the complexities of human emotions and the shadows that linger in our past. For those willing to endure its deliberate pacing, the film unfolds as a deeply engaging story that pushes viewers to reflect on their own fears and the realities they choose to face or run away from. Imaginary is a commendable addition to the horror landscape, promising a journey as introspective as it is unsettling. We can't recommend this film highly enough.

Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Written by Jeff Wadlow, Greg Erb, Bryce McGuire, Jason Oremland
Produced by Jeff Wadlow, Jason Blum
Starring DeWanda Wise, Tom Payne, Betty Buckley, Taegen Burns, Pyper Braun, Matthew Sato, Veronica Falcón
Cinematography : James McMillan
Edited by Sean Albertson
Music by Bear McCreary
Production company : Blumhouse Productions
Distributed by Lionsgate (United States), Metropolitan FilmExport (France)
Release date : March 6, 2024 (France), March 8, 2024 (United States)
Running Time : 104 minutes

Seen on march 6 2024 at Gaumont Disney Village, Room 10 seat A18

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