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Updated: May 3

Clawing out to be "Poltergeist" but mostly uninspired, Blumhouse's new "horror" thriller IMAGINARY has one decent twist but no scares.

With the clumsiest plot exposition since M. Night drowned in the complications of "Lady in the Water", the only thing scary is how long this thing takes to get rolling.

DaWanda Wise (Jurassic Park: Dominion) is Jessica, a children's book author and illustrator who decides to return to her childhood home (is that ever a good move in a Blumhouse movie?) with her husband and two step daughters in tow.

This house is on Elm Street! Really, it is.


Husband Max (Tom Payne from "Prodigal Son", excellent when he's on screen) is a rocker who conveniently leaves on tour so Jessica and his 15 year old daughter Taylor (Taegen Burns) and her younger sister Alice (Pyper Braun) are home alone with the bumps in the night.

Alice finds a teddy bear named Chauncey in the creepy cellar and he becomes her imaginary friend, carrying on conversations that soon slip into bizarre territory. Let's talk about that basement. Basement's are inherently scary. Films like "The Amityville Horror" and SO many others get that right. What's under the stairs? What's that right over there where the light won't quite reach?

IMAGINARY, maybe handcuffed by its PG-13 rating, never creates any scares down there. It's the first sign this thing might be in trouble.

Before you can scream "Don't go into the light Carol Anne!" Alice disappears.

I wish the discoveries that lead to where she is were half as exciting as the filmmakers think they are.

By the time Betty Buckley shows up as a weird neighbor there to explain the history of the house, I was worried I had fallen asleep and woke up watching "The Happening", another non-scary scary movie with Buckley as a crazy old lady.

By the way, we love Betty Buckley and when we saw her opening night on Broadway in "Sunset Boulevard", we'll never forget it. She's fantastic. But she needs a new agent that doesn't book her in crappy non-thrillers.

Wise is very good with the little she is given. Most of the surprises (except for one that I wont divulge here) I saw coming well in advance.

Veronica Falcon (Jungle Cruise, Ozark) comes in and steals the movie as therapist Dr. Soto. The movie feels more important when she's on screen, and she serves up one of the best sequences as she films a session with young Alice & Chauncey. Too bad she doesn't stick around like Beatrice Straight did in "Poltergeist", she would have added some much needed gravitas.

Alas, we're doomed to run around the hallways and portals of an imaginary world...blah blah blah.

Note to filmmakers: Teddy Bears aren't scary. Period. End of TED Talk.

When Blumhouse gets a horror movie right, it kills. M.E.G.A.N. is a great example.

This is not.

IMAGINARY left me dreaming up a much better film in my head.

The one I actually watched gets a D.

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