Imaginary Reviews Are All Saying The Same Thing

By Brian Myers | Updated

Ahead of the March 8 theatrical premiere of the latest Lionsgate horror film, critics have begun lampooning the Jeff Wadlow-directed project, sinking its ratings on Rotten Tomatoes to a dismal 31 percent. Though Imaginary did have some positive reception from the critics on the site, the bulk of reviewers at this juncture panned the film for its lack of creativity, boring script, and poor character development. Disappointing news for sure, considering the production company’s last entry into horror, the 2024 vampire film Sunrise, was a box office bomb and critical disaster.

Critics Hate Imaginary

One of the most brutal reviews came from the keyboard of L.A. Times film critic Robert Abele, who opined that “if you tasked any child with a rewrite on this script, you’d likely come up with something way more colorful, fun and freaky than the zipless cafeteria food ladled onto our laps.” And he clearly wasn’t alone in his disdain for Imaginary, as the hits just kept coming.

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter weighed in, pointing out that the film begins on the wrong foot as a “relatively low-key suspenser with intriguing psychological depth,” but “eventually succumbs to the inanities plaguing so many recent horror efforts.”

Can Never Go Home Again

Imaginary is the story of a woman who moves with her family into her childhood home and discovers a stuffed teddy bear named Chauncey that she had left behind years before. When her young daughter takes a certain affinity to the stuffed animal, her mother notices disturbing changes in her personality. It’s soon revealed that the toy has a mind of its own and has a young victim under its sinister control.

Another Evil Toy

Horror films that feature evil toys aren’t anything new to Hollywood, as there are quite a few that beat Imaginary to the punch in this category. The 1988 flick Child’s Play and the 1989 entry Puppet Master have both been causes of childhood nightmares (and a few laughs) since they were first released. The doll from the cinematic universe of The Conjuring, Annabelle, gave modern audiences chills across multiple films.

These horror films exemplify how a combination of gore and sinister-looking toys from childhood can be woven into the perfect villains in a movie.

Chauncey Is Adorable But Pure Evil

Chauncey from Imaginary falls somewhere between other evil onscreen toys. He fails to provide viewers with an onscreen bloodbath of gory kills and uses a plush teddy bear instead of a creepy-looking doll as the vehicle for mayhem. His innocent look, however, might make him the ultimate terror-maker, as an unsuspecting victim might mistake his teddy bear look for a snuggly toy instead of a medium for otherworldly malevolence.

Bad Horror Can Be Great

But just because a film’s critical reception is lackluster doesn’t mean that viewers aren’t in for a fun ride. While it’s probable that Imaginary isn’t going to get any red-carpet treatment, the movie is going to be a sure hit with fans of horror, particularly ones who dig the genre entries that are in the same vein as Five Nights at Freddy’s. The critics’ perspectives aside, Imaginary still packs a creepy storyline and well-timed jump scares into a 104-minute film that is certainly theater-worthy.

Not all the reviews were negative, either. Rachel Leishman of The Mary Sue pointed out that while Imaginary isn’t going to bring something new to the horror genre, “it is a fun horror movie to watch.

The Cast Does Their Best

Imaginary stars DeWanda Wise as the mother, Jessica, an indie actress whose breakthrough role in Jurassic World Dominion made her standout among the casting agents at Blumhouse. The stellar performance by Wise is perhaps only matched onscreen by her young costar, Pyper Braun, a talented voice actress from multiple animated series who made her film debut as Analee in Desperation Road. Taegen Burns, Betty Buckley, and Tom Payne also co-star.

Potential For Massive Profits In Spite Of The Critics

Despite the poor reviews, it’s expected that the 3,000-screen debut weekend will do more than help Lionsgate recoup the $12 million production budget for Imaginary.