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Imaginary movie review & film summary (2024)

Within the domestic drama of Jessica’s feelings of displacement in the family unit is a secondary plot line that hints at out-of-focus childhood traumas and a fractured relationship with her father. Jessica’s escape is her imagination, the creation of her children’s books. Likewise, Taylor and Alice’s mother is committed due to mental health struggles and as Alice looks to find her footing, her imagination opens the door to Chauncey’s influence. While the psychic tether between Alice and Jessica becomes more clear throughout the film, the rest of the story diverges onto a path of confoundment, introducing new laws, worldbuilding, and histories that throw the previous narrative into oblivion. 

When an old neighbor and Jessica’s childhood babysitter, Gloria (Betty Buckley), comes into the picture, “Imaginary” teeters off the thin ledge of horror and into very shallow waters of mythic science fiction. Gone are the conventions of a possessed bear/spirit/demon, and in is a “Coraline”-style hidden door that leads to a labyrinthine underworld of imagination inhabited by long lost children stolen by bug-eyed imaginary friends. It’s a CG landscape somewhere between “The Haunted Mansion” and “Thirteen Ghosts” but without the fun levity of either. 

While it desires itself to be a horror film, what ensues over the course of its runtime feels more like a confused study of tropes that never pay off. For its genre aspirations, “Imaginary” has a pointed lack of scares and gore, relying more on the mere idea of what its concept could be rather than what the film actually is. There’s no carnage candy or heart pounding suspense to relieve the film from its droning pace, and instead it gets caught in a cycle of disappointments as the suggestion of bloodshed or tension fizzles into yet another fake-out.

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