Imaginary Review: Is Blumhouse Hollywood’s New Crap Factory?

The once-great production house faces issue of quantity over quality

How the mighty have fallen. Blumhouse Productions used to be the hip label in horror. Movies like Get Out, The Purge, Sinister, and Insidious let audiences shriek in terror while savouring something new. Yet as these successes spawned sequels or imitations, Blumhouse became too comfortable with a formula.

All the movies coming out of Blumhouse these days are practically the same. They haven’t made a film worth seeing since the pre-COVID release The Invisible Man…itself a remake. (M3GAN is a great meme, but not a good movie.) Anything worthwhile carrying the labels lately is a post-premiere acquisition, like Sundance winner Nanny. But don’t let the low-price influencers with neither discerning taste nor dignity fool you: there’s no release to get excited about Blumhouse movies any more. And that’s the case with Blumhouse’s latest offering, Imaginary, which is so bad they only lifted the review embargo around the time that the first public screenings were ending on Thursday night.

Imaginary, moreover, contains an ironic dearth of imagination. The movie simply cribs from the Blumhouse playbook. It’s yet another story of a wholesome family in peril after moving into a new house that features a demonic presence that threatens the kids, lives in the pool or creepy basement, tries to bring said kid to some half-assed spin on “the Sunken Place,” and includes a kooky old hag who ties the plot up with a bit of expository dialogue and dies shortly thereafter. It is, frankly, intolerable.

This time, the family in peril features Jessica (DeWanda Wise), a children’s author and stepmother to Alice (Pyper Braun) and Taylor (Taegan Burns). They move into the house that Jessica grew up in after she experiences recurring nightmares. Her husband (Tom Payne) suggests she sleep somewhere comfortable and familiar, which is fine since her estranged father is being shipped off to the old folks’ home.

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Not long after moving home, though, Alice finds a teddy bear in the dark and creepy basement, names him Chauncey, and things start going bump in the night. Everyone in the theatre surely knows where this is going.

Any element of surprise, meanwhile, dies with each narrative signposts that plays Blumhouse Mad Libs. Jessica and Alice share childhood traumas. They both have scars. They both have/had imaginary friends. Their separation from their mothers haunts them. Sure, Imaginary isn’t the first horror movie to take a rinse-and-repeat approach to the old haunted house thing, but anything that can’t be bothered to try something new at least needs to be entertaining.

Unfortunately, Imaginary just proves boring. The scares aren’t there. The few kills aren’t any fun. And the effects are downright cheesy. It’s a bunch of tired jump scares. Chauncey the bear isn’t particularly intimidating, either, and his monstrous form is hardly a Cocaine Bear-style riot. Even compared to Elizabeth Banks’ B-movie, the laughs were intentional in that case.

It doesn’t help, either, that Blumhouse’s house style is pretty drab aesthetically, so Imaginary looks as generic as it plays. Throw in some flat lighting, clunky pacing, predictable music, and one especially bad child performance, and it’s an all-around groaner.

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The only thing scary to come out of Blumhouse, really, is the quality of its recent output. It’s only a few weeks into 2024 and Imaginary easily joins Blumhouse’sNight Swim among the year’s worst titles. The house of Blum needs to slow down and do some serious quality control. Less is more, guys!

 Imaginary opened in theatres March 7.

 

 



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