[Review] ‘Welcome To The Blumhouse’ Opens The Doors To Familial Horror With THE LIE and BLACK BOX

The house may be a home, but when it’s a Blumhouse home there is more to the structure than four walls and a roof. As the world continues to experience the lasting restrictions of necessary shut-in precautions, family connection and amusement have become some of the more required components of routine survival as the four walls around us seem to feel smaller and smaller by the day.

In an effort to bring entertainment to the comfort of our homes, so to speak, Blumhouse Productions and Amazon Studios have teamed up, extending a terrifying invite to viewers with their Welcome To The Blumhouse series. The collection of films, released two at a time, range in content, ensemble, and scares. The first slate of films, The Lie and Black Box showcase the series’ serious tone and establish the hall of familial horror viewers are about to tour.

 



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The Lie

What’s the worst that one little lie can do? Writer and director Veena Sud (The Killing) explores the potential for expansive damage in her entry to the Welcome To The Blumhouse series, The Lie. Starring Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan), Mireille Enos (World War Z), and Joey King (The Conjuring), the dedication of two parents is put to the test as “a man and his wife fall into a web of lies and deceit when they try to cover up their teenage daughter’s horrific crime”. The divisive story begins with what viewers assume about King’s Kayla moving outward to the devastating consequences at the hands of her divorced mother, Rebecca, and father, Ray, played by Sarsgaard and Enos.

With moments of swift storytelling and others more lingering throughout its 90-minute runtime, the building of lie upon lie catapults the tension into more desperate territories that twist and turn into a pretty unbelievable outcome. With a narrative that dares to feed on assumption, the film as a whole works well to maximize a surprise ending. The Lie never goes completely off the rails, but rather controls itself in subtle hints and clues that won’t make sense until the final act is revealed. In a very fractured coming-of-age family drama, Sud weaves a web doomed from the beginning that unravels a fractured bond spun out of the complications of marriage and parenthood. 

 

“…lie upon lie catapults the tension into more desperate territories that twist and turn into a pretty unbelievable outcome.”

 

The Lie is immediately immersed in a frosty disposition from the start with a wintery atmosphere that wraps the subject matter in a cold tone. The situation that Rebecca and Ray find themselves in combined with Kayla’s behavior gives the film a polarizing effect. Their reactions, as individuals and partners, to Kayla’s unfortunate mistake gives the narrative an extra layer of depth and nuance that easily puts the viewers in the shoes of a desperate parent. Solid direction and cinematography paint a secretive portrait of a family torn apart in their relationships and in their actions. Frames are smartly fit around the range of dynamics between the characters, drawing attention to the connection and communication between parent and child as well as parent and parent.

Sud makes terrific use of her space and timing, giving The Lie bouts of movement and isolation culminating in some truly thrilling, realistic scenarios. The home becomes both a place of safety and a forced prison as Ray and Rebecca stop at no cost to protect their daughter while an inevitable hefty price omnisciently hides beneath the shallow, icy surface. Sarsgaard, Enos, and King all bring nuance and genuine emotion to their roles, raising the stakes and the suspicions to grave heights. Nothing is left to the imagination, yet the third act swerve comes out of the blue with a chilly aftertaste that lasts long after the damage is done. The Lie is not referring to “the lie” that viewers may assume it is labeling and kicks off the Welcome To The Blumhouse collection with open, untrustworthy arms.

 

Black Box

Places hold memories just as the mind holds onto trauma. Director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr. (Born With It) opens the door that links the two with his entry into the Welcome To The Blumhouse series, Black Box. Starring Mamoudou Athie (Underwater), Tosin Morohunfola (The Chi), Charmaine Bingwa (In The Shadows), Donald Watkins (Free State of Jones), Felicia Rashad (Creed), and Amanda Christine (Miss Virginia), Black Box is a light sci-fi journey into subconscious reaches, paranoia, and the dark corner of memory suppression.

The film’s maze of mounting intensity begins when, “after losing his wife and his memory in a car accident, a single father undergoes an agonizing experimental treatment that causes him to question who he really is.” Athie takes over the lead role of Nolan with sympathetic charisma as viewers observe his struggle to not only deal with the loss of his wife, but also the confusing battle of his memory loss and suspicions about who he used to be as a person. Osei-Kuffour experiments with poignant technological applications that manage to entertain, thrill, and effectively maneuver throughout the rooms of the human psyche

 

Black Box is equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting with a faint, but pulsing impression of true horror”

 

Black Box is another narrative in the Welcome To The Blumhouse series that plays off of our natural presumptions without outright trickery before nailing down another pleasant surprise. The film begins like an organic mystery that seems transparent at first but works itself around a complex plot that is intriguing and satisfying. Though Black Box also plays out like more of an intense family drama, it is peppered with more traditional horror components thanks in large part to the incredible performance of contortionists Troy James (Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark) as the Backwards Man. His disjointed bodywork is the true representation of nightmare fuel and impressive practical film effects. On the opposite end of the performance spectrum, Amanda Christine adds a tremendous amount of heart and soft humor with her darling attitude and charming strength.

Black Box does not venture very far into the drastic arts of cinematic storytelling but instead focuses on substance over style. By keeping the story more standard, Osei-Kuffour facilitates a well-rounded, immersive experience into ranges of authentic family traumas and the spaces that they occupy. Viewers piece together the puzzle along with Nolan, figuring out the story and what is really a play as he goes further into treatment. Black Box is equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting with a faint, but pulsing impression of true horror.

 

Better Together

While very different in terms of their tones, styles, and narratives, The Lie and Black Box share the familial bond that ties intention and care with nefarious motivations. Their centered focus on traumatic circumstances, the power of relational dependence, and their emotional mechanics partake in the terrors that haunt a home. Neither of the films are necessarily extreme cases of horror as they refrain from adding too much of what goes bump in the night and lean in towards more of what lurks within the shadows of the bedroom.

The twists in both films are clever with a refreshing excitement that invigorates each story based on unassuming viewing. Both Sud and Osei-Kuffour have presented commendable storytelling with chilling aspects that can be enjoyed in a singular fashion or as a double-feature pairing. The Lie and Black Box are a great indication of what we can expect from the remaining half of Welcome To The Blumhouse series. Both The Lie and Black Box are currently streaming on Amazon Prime with the addition of Nocturne and Evil Eye to follow up.

 

The twists in both films are clever with a refreshing excitement that invigorates each story based on unassuming viewing.”

 

Have you accepted your welcome invitation to The Blumhouse? Have you seen Veena Sud’s The Lie and Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr.’s Black Box? Which one is your favorite? Which entry are you looking forward to seeing the most, Nocturne or Evil Eye? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!

 

Review: Welcome To The Blumhouse: The Lie and Black Box (2020)
TLDR
While very different in terms of their tones, styles, and narratives, The Lie and Black Box share the familial bond that ties intention and care with nefarious motivations. The twists in both films are clever with a refreshing excitement that invigorates each story based on unassuming viewing. Both Sud and Osei-Kuffour have presented commendable storytelling with chilling aspects that can be enjoyed in a singular fashion or as a double-feature pairing. The Lie and Black Box are a great indication of what we can expect from the remaining half of Welcome To The Blumhouse series.The twists in both films are clever with a refreshing excitement that invigorates each story based on unassuming viewing. Both Sud and Osei-Kuffour have presented commendable storytelling with chilling aspects that can be enjoyed in a singular fashion or as a double-feature pairing. The Lie and Black Box are a great indication of what we can expect from the remaining half of Welcome To The Blumhouse series.
The Lie
85
Black Box
80
Double Feature Depth
85
Emotional Execution
85
83
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