Imaginary Review: As Scary As You’d Expect From A Movie About A Teddy Bear

Blumhouse’s latest horror movie is here.

Pyper Braun and Chauncey in Imaginary
(Image: © Lionsgate)

Within the horror genre, there’s always been a perverse fascination with the ways in which childhood can be haunting, and that tradition continues this spring with director Jeff Wadlow’s Imaginary. (I mean, we’ve already ruined how many nursery rhymes to creepily recited moments in scary movies?) It’s been studied that over half of children create imaginary friends by the age of seven... but what if the whispers kids hear are not simply mental conjuring? What if they were the result of a connection from another, much darker world that seeks to compromise one’s fantasies? That’s the entry point for the central premise in Imaginary, the latest title from Blumhouse.


Imaginary 2024 movie Bear

(Image credit: Blumhouse)

Release Date: March 8, 2024
Directed By: Jeff Wadlow
Written By: Jeff Wadlow, Greg Erb & Jason Oremland
Starring: DeWanda Wise, Tom Payne, Taegan Burns, Pyper Braun, Veronica Falcón, Betty Buckley
Rating: PG-13 for some violent content, drug material and language.
Runtime: 104 minutes

Those who are paying attention to the output from Jason Blum's studio may notice that Imaginary continues a recent trend following M3GAN and Five Night At Freddys: it is campy, fantastical and most definitely along the lines of beginner horror. Tried-and-true fans of the genre are not going to bat an eye at this rather elementary scare fest. If you’re willing to surrender yourself to the twisty-turny (and rather conventional) storyline of Jeff Wadlow’s PG-13 vision, there’s some fun to be had in Imaginary – but you’re not going to get any badges of honor for getting through this one without being plagued by nightmares. The movie is about an evil teddy bear, and that’s rather mild when you pit him against other famous toys from classic scary movies.

Imaginary’s promising premise is weighed down by a truly adorable teddy bear. 

There’s inherently something unsettling about a children’s favorite toy being secretly something sinister, but Imaginary doesn’t do a very good job of crossing into the other side of leaving one creeped out about the adorable teddy bear. It’s the most glaring problem of Imaginary. There’s a disquieting narrative set up in the film, with a successful cartoonist Jessica (DeWanda Wise) returning to her childhood home with her husband and stepchildren. The youngest of the two daughters, Alice (Pyper Braun), finds a forgotten teddy bear in the basement, and she quickly latches on the stuffed animal – calling it Chauncey and speaking to it all the time. Her parents figure it's normal behavior, and that she’s just using Chauncey to adjust to her new life and home, but there’s a darker backstory behind the bear's pitch black eyes we’re supposed to shudder at. 

But as Imaginary's narrative picks up, one cannot shake how truly cute Chauncey really is, despite the script dropping hints here and there about how potentially evil the thing is. There are some well orchestrated scares throughout the film utilizing the cuddly antagonist, but there’s an odd disjointedness between the horrors of the storyline and Chauncey himself. Blame it on Chucky’s legacy, but Chauncey just doesn’t have the fierceness that gets movie-goers stressed when they see him lounging around with an innocent eight-year-old girl. 

Newcomer Pyper Braun steals the show as Imaginary’s lead. 

Chauncey may not do the best job of serving scares in Imaginary, but Pyper Braun and DeWanda Wise’s commitment to their roles at least helps the evil teddy bear out. Braun – who makes her first horror turn in the movie following more age-appropriate past roles in things like Superkitties – is responsible for some truly spine-chilling moments that temporarily bring out the movie's dark side. 

Along with Braun stealing the show, DeWanda Wise cements herself as a leading lady with a believable and grounding performance that offsets the awkwardness of Chauncey throughout the movie. She brings an intriguing depth to Jessica that carries throughout and saves Wadlow’s film from reaching loose and wacky territories. 

Imaginary’s fantastical elements and fun scares set it apart from recent Blumhouse movies, yet it doesn’t feel like a particularly fresh addition to the production company’s filmography. 

Despite Chauncey not being a particularly horrifying threat in Imaginary, the movie does operate as an interesting fantasy film with imagery that feels reminiscent of Laika’s Coraline. Once it dives headfirst into being a monster feature in the third act rather than a straight psychological thriller, the film really elevates and sets itself apart from other genre fare of its kind. The movie waits way too long to lore dump on its audience, but once it unlocks its mysteries, it successfully feels like walking into an inventive haunted house. 

All and all, Imaginary is clunky, too fuzzy and overstuffed – but that does have to be built into expectations for a scary movie about a teddy bear. Given it’s title, however, it at least it could have pulled off a tad more imagination from the jump. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.