James Jay Edwards reviews The Lie and Black Box, Blumhouse’s first two entries of the Welcome to The Blumhouse series on Amazon Prime. (Amazon Prime)
There’s little doubt that Blumhouse Productions is THE name in horror right now. The studio/distributor has consistently been putting out everything from schlocky flicks like Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno to highbrow films like Jordan Peele’s Get Out for over a decade. A couple of years ago, the prolific moviemaking machine started pumping out a movie a month on Hulu under the Into the Dark banner, but it’s been a few months since fans have seen activity there. And now, we may know why.
Blumhouse has partnered with Amazon Studios to produce four feature-length movies, the project being called Welcome to The Blumhouse. The first two, The Lie and Black Box, are out right now.
(Black Box and The Lie, official poster, Blumhouse Productions)
The Lie is about a teenage girl named Kayla (Joey King from The Conjuring) who, while on the way to a dance retreat with her father, Jay (Orphan’s Peter Sarsgaard), spots her best friend, Britney (Devery Jacobs from The Order), at a bus stop waiting to go to the same camp. Kayla convinces her father to give Britney a ride and, along the way, they stop for a bathroom break. Britney disappears, and Kayla confesses to Jay that she killed her friend. Along with Kayla’s mother, Rebecca (Mireille Enos from World War Z), Jay tries to cover up his daughter’s crime, but both the police and Britney’s father (The Strain’s Cas Anvar) are suspicious.
Black Box is about a young man named Nolan (Mamoudou Athie from Underwater) who, as the result of a horrific accident that killed his wife, has lost most of his memory. Struggling to take care of his young daughter, Ava (Amanda Christine from Miss Virginia), he agrees to an experimental procedure developed by a brilliant doctor named Lillian (The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad) that may help him. And it does. Nolan begins regaining his memories, but he seems to be losing his mind in the process.
(The Lie, Blumhouse Productions)
(Black Box, Blumhouse Productions)
Both The Lie and Black Box are basically exactly what they pretend to be: glorified television movies. In the case of The Lie, the story plays out like a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, a simple story that winds itself up until the layers are tightly complex, with a rug-pull ending that leaves the viewer both gasping for breath and shaking their head in disbelief. Writer/director Veena Sud (The Killing) crafts a socially conscious look at human nature and the protective tendencies of parents. One almost expects Rod Serling himself to walk out at the end and say something like “there are two parties to any lie, the one who chooses to tell it, and the one who chooses to believe it.”
Black Box, on the other hand, comes off as more of a feature-length entry into the Black Mirror series, very techno-savvy and uber-cool, with a slowly unravelling mystery that only raises more questions with each one that it answers. Written by director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour (his first feature) along with Wade Allain-Marcus (Grown-ish) and Stephen Herman (the upcoming Blank), it’s actually very akin to another Blumhouse movie of the past few years, but to say which one would be a bit of a spoiler. But a lesser studio might have slapped a “Part 2” on Black Box and marketed it as a sequel. It’s also a bit of a spoiler to point out how nuanced the performance of leading man Mamoudou Athie is, since the reason the performance is so great is a bit of a twist. To be fair, though, by the time Black Box gets to its big reveal, there’s still half a movie left, so it’s not a super spoiler. You’re still not going to get any more out of this review, though. Go into Black Box blind if possible.
(The Lie, Blumhouse Productions)
It’s easy to see why The Lie and Black Box are straight-to-streaming titles. Both are one-note, point-A-to-point-B narratives, and while they’ve each got a few surprises, there’s not much more to them than that. They’re disposable, but fun while they’re on the screen. Black Box is the better of the two, but both are worth a watch.
Both Welcome to The Blumhouse movies, The Lie and Black Box, are available to stream on Amazon Prime.