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  • Tyler Harlow


Starring: DeWanda Wise, Tom Payne, Pyper Braun, Taegen Burns, Betty Buckley, Veronica Falcon, Matthew Sato

Director: Jeff Wadlow

Children's author Jessica (Wise) moves back into her childhood home with her husband Max (Payne) and stepchildren Taylor (Burns) and Alice (Braun). Young Alice soon becomes inseparable from a teddy bear named Chauncey she finds hidden in the basement. Soon Alice begins collecting items from a list that Chaucey has given her. While it is seemingly innocent, it soon becomes apparent that Chauncey is up to something sinister and it may have a connection to Jessica's childhood. With the help of a neighbor named Gloria (Buckley), Jessica has to remember her past to help save Alice and her family.

It's hard to really know what kind of film you will be getting when you see that a new movie is coming from Blumhouse. For every Paranormal Activity, Get Out, The Invisible Man or M3gan you also get Night Swim, Five Nights at Freddy's, Fantasy Island or Truth or Dare. Those last two are relevant here because Blumhouse's latest is directed by the man responsible for those films: Jeff Wadlow. But does he redeem himself here, with an admittedly more promising premise?

Short answer is no, he doesn't. Much like his previous films, Wadlow has a premise that doesn't feel fleshed out in the slightest. I'll give him this, the idea behind the film is probably one of his better ones and there are so many interesting and terrifying ideas one could center a film about an imaginary friend. Wadlow ignores all of these and instead delivers a PG-13 horror film that is dull, filled with cliches and unnecessary side characters and in perhaps its biggest sin, is simply not scary. It's unintentionally funny. It's almost ironic that a movie centered around the imagination is completely devoid of it.

Instead of focusing on making his film scary, Wadlow wastes our time on a lot of unnecessary subplots and misdirection that don't need to be there. Take the subplot of a neighbor played by Matthew Sato. He is quickly introduced. shows up at their house, gets to be in a predictable and lame jump-scare and then never really shows up again. Why have him involved at all? The jump-scare could have worked with any of the other characters in the film. Instead we get a useless character that only exists to pad the runtime. There is also a weird moment where the kids' actual mother, who is mentally unstable, turns up and attacks Jessica and then never shows up or is mentioned again. Wouldn't that be a topic of conversation, especially once Max seemingly leaves mere days later to leave everyone alone and never reenter the picture?

Things admittedly get a little more interesting in the third act. We are treated to Chauncey's world that is very much inspired by M.C. Escher paintings. In hopes of not sounding like a broken record, Wadlow once again doesn't know what to do with the idea he has created. It also feels like a very blatant rip off of The Further from Insidious. This third act also features one of the funniest death scenes since Deep Blue Sea. Seriously I couldn't stop laughing until the movie ended.

A lot of this could be forgiven if the characters were interesting. DeWise's Jessica is quite dull and just kind of exists. She doesn't really react at all to any of the weird stuff happening around her and there is artificial conflict with her stepdaughter Taylor that feels forced just so the film can have conflict among the characters. Jessica will also leave young Alice home alone far too often than she should. This makes Taylor, through no fault of actress Taegen Burns, utterly annoying. The less said about Betty Buckley's character the better. She deserved much better and is only around to spout exposition that the audience very much could have put together themselves.

While I wasn't expecting much from the trailers, this movie adds to the unfortunate start 2024 has gotten off to horror-wise.

Grade: D


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