As horror fans, I would speculate most of us enjoy intertextuality on a certain level. In fact, I would say that applies to moviegoers in general. We flock to see a film like Ant-Man, not even necessarily because we like Ant-Man, but, because we like the Marvel Cinematic Universe he exists in, and don’t want to miss out on the latest installment in that series. Likewise, we will buy tickets to see The Nun in reaction to our enjoyment of the last Conjuring film. This is not something that only applies to franchises set in the same cinematic universe, but brands, as well. For instance, I know I have bought products for Full Moon Features or Hammer Horror, or some other film company as a result of brand loyalty. Blumhouse Features’ latest project, aptly titled Welcome to the Blumhouse strives to market a brand appeal – interlocking and intertwining films that, otherwise, are unrelated.
Personally, I love the idea in theory. Anything that helps create high-profile horror is something I approve of, and, even if I am self aware of the strategy behind it, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a brand mentality – a marketed flavor, if you will. So long as that flavor is consistent and enjoyable. No one wants to eat a bowl of M&M’s and run into a mouthful of Skittles, after all.
I was excited for Welcome to the Blumhouse, even though I am a natural skeptic. I knew the series was not likely to be an actual series, but, rather, a series of films mushed together for marketability’s sake. It’s less Black Mirror and more 8 Films to DIE for, and I am okay with that. Not a lot of horror films have been released this year, and Blumhouse has had a reputation over the years for nourishing the market, albeit, sometimes with mixed results.
The Lie is the first film we will be talking about in the Welcome to the Blumhouse collection. Something you might have been curious about is how exactly the Welcome to the Blumhouse series came to exist. Due to the ongoing pandemic, not a lot of filmmaking has been able to be done, after all. Well, this first film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13th, 2018, and thus, is actually two years old. It is also a remake of the 2015 German film We Monsters, which premiered at the same festival three years prior to that.
The film comprises itself of a cast that includes actresses Joey King and Mireille Enos, and actor Peter Sarsgaard, of those names, you are likely to recognize at least one of them. Joey King, of course, is an actress who has made the rounds in the horror genre in features like Slender Man, The Conjuring, as well as the Netflix romantic-comedy The Kissing Booth. The film was written and directed by Veena Sud, a filmmaker whose contribution can be seen in series’ like The Killing and Cold Case, in other words, The Lie is a film I believe plays pretty well into her wheelhouse.
In it, Joey King plays a young girl named Kayla whose mother Rebecca and father Jay, played by Mireille and Peter respectively, are estranged. Although there is not a lot of insight given on their relationship with one another, it can be inferred that the mother blames the father for the rocky relationship she has with her daughter, and that she is often tasked the role of playing the bad guy. On the way to a dance camp, Jay and Kayla drive by Kayla’s friend Brittany and offer her a ride. Shortly after, however, Brittany begins acting strange, and then, is let out of the vehicle to use the bathroom. Keep in mind, they are in the middle of nowhere in a snowy terrain. After waiting, Jay becomes restless and goes to look for Brittany and his daughter, only to discover Brittany is nowhere to be found. Worse yet – Kayla points down at the raging stream beneath the bridge and claims to have pushed her. Now, Rebecca and Jay must come together as they deal with the consequences of Kayla’s actions.
I think a lot of the reason I was so hesitance to enter the House of Blumhouse because of this film. Frankly put, I was not sold on it in any capacity, feeling that the trailer summarized, more-or-less, everything the film had to offer. Having watched it now, I can say there is a lot of truth to that instinct I had.
The film is shot well, with high-production value across the board, every scene feels very glossy and cinematic, and the house they live in looks very nice and expensive, even if it does not exactly look like someone actually lives in it. It has a very produced aesthetic, where it does not do a whole of experimentation with its shots, no real creative shots or allusions to speak of, but everything looks good, for the most part. Rather than a horror film, I would almost compare this to a teen drama, and I think that holds in other parts of it as well.
The acting is solid across the board, in fact, I would even say it is good, with both Mireille and Peter coming off well as the emotionally distraught parents trying to cope with the predicament, and Joey King’s character coming off very innocent, like she does not have the emotional maturity to wrap herself around the severity of the situation. They are not necessarily defined, mind you. Instead, they feel like they are kept at arm’s length, leaving the viewers to speculate on their characters, rather than having actual fleshed out characters to look at.
The concept is decent and straightforward, but, as I unfortunately suspected, did not have a hook or intricacy to rope me into it. The whole premise of the film is very obvious and that’s an issue, no matter what the payoff is. Literally, just reading the description of the film as I did earlier, you can say exactly what will happen. In fact, the bigger twist would be if it didn’t happen.
Whether it be The Gift or, perhaps, Gone Girl, those are examples of films with a twisty yarn that’s spun, but they have something to make it worthwhile as they are untangling it. Gone Girl had fantastic performances and one of the greatest directors on the planet directing it, whereas, The Gift had great performances and great directing, as well. However, they both were intricate as well, and had character and style, and really knew how to get you invested.
This film, on the other hand, does not. The Lie is about two things, the beginning and the end, and it feels like, everything between that, is laborious.
Early on, as I watched the film, within about ten minutes, I confidently knew what the payoff was. I mean, I knew where they were headed. And I was right.
It was a very, very predictable film in that regard, however, I will say, I did not predict a certain nuance that was added, which, I think, was to the film’s benefit, but was not enough to bring everything together in a declarative fashion.
Even if the payoff wasn’t as obvious as it was, even with the added nuance that caught me off-guard, it would not have mattered, because the film itself makes you think you know what happened and never does anything to make you doubt that. This is not a mystery film that keeps you guessing, it is more of a film about how far a mother and father will go in-order to protect their daughter from being charged with murder. And, in that regard, it falls very flat.
The characters are contrived and have to fall in a careful, particular way, and, by the end, you feel like you know less about the characters than when you started, either that, or that it is inconsistent who they started out as and who they became.
The Lie is not a film that evokes any strong emotion one way or the other, more like a pair of shrugged shoulders, and that, usually, is the worst possible outcome.