Synopsis – A father and daughter are on their way to dance camp when they spot the girl’s best friend on the side of the road. When they stop to offer the friend a ride, their good intentions soon result in terrible consequences.
My Take – Although nearly every month sees the release of a couple small-budgeted horror thrillers, often fronted by unknown faces and mounted by unheard filmmakers, gasping to find acclaim in the much crowded market, Blumhouse Productions, using the very same formula of persistently risking on fresh ideas, irrespective of the popularity of the talent involved, has emerged into powerhouse studio over the past few years.
Hence, it came as exciting news for genre fans when they announced their latest venture in conjunction with Amazon called ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’, a series of eight horrors and thrillers helmed by a variety of emerging directors to be released on Amazon Prime Video in October 2020, just in time for Halloween.
With ‘The Killing’ creator Veena Sud‘s feature debut being the first one to release, whose basic catch comes from raising a familiar question about how far would you go to protect your child?
Adapted from the 2015 German thriller ‘Wir Monster,’ here, director and co-writer Veena Sud does start off well by introducing the traditional beats of a domestic thriller that includes an angst filled teenager and divorced parents forced to revisit marital conflicts as they work together to protect their child in a suburban town.
While the film scores when it comes to showing off some really great cinematography and extracting good performances from its lead cast, it never quite manages to be exactly thrilling with its moments of genuine tension arriving only very few and far between.
Unfolding at a very deliberate pace, minus any horror or suspense, the film just lacks a gripping story, the right twists and a chilling character study. Even the twists that are delivered end up leaving you more bewildered than anything else. I really hope the remaining films in Welcome to the Blumhouse venture are much stronger than this one.
The story follows Kayla (Joey King), a 15-year-old girl who is still coping with the divorce of her parents, Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) and Rebecca (Mireille Enos), and trying to get her head around the fact that they both have moved on with new partners. However, her life gets further complicated when on her way to a ballet retreat out of town with Jay, she spots her friend Brittany (Devery Jacobs) waiting alone at the bus stop, and decide to give her a ride.
But something happens between the two girls at remote stop at the woods, which results in Kayla claiming that she pushed Brittany over the bridge. Scared for what will happen to his daughter, who could be implicated in her disappearance, Jay makes the decision to take her back home.
While Jay and Rebecca desperately throw their morality out the window to save their daughter by building a series of lies to cover up, their biggest obstacle comes in the form of Brittany’s father Sam Ifrani (Cas Anvar), who is convinced Kayla knows something, forcing the family to take up desperate measures.
Keeping in mind director Veena Sud’s background she does effectively manage to bring a certain energy to the film with the cold atmosphere and seasonal setting feeling appropriate for the theme. She is clearly skilled, and given the right material could do something great, but this is not it, as the early part of the mystery is the film’s only successful section.
You’d think that the rest of the film would reveal more about Brittany and Kayla’s relationship or the fight that led to the fall, but there isn’t much to ponder about. Even Jay and Rebecca’s broken relationship is barely touched upon. These would have been interesting additions to the story but instead, the emotions are running so high for everyone involved that film finds itself focusing only these loud reactions, which increase in regularity as the film progresses.
In the sense, Kayla becomes more erratic while Jay and Rebecca prove more ruthless in their participation. Things start getting way out of hand and then go even further until we can’t help but snicker. The twists that film goes through are frequently absurd, so much so that they go beyond the noir origins director Sud seems to be pointing at. While I must admit that I was shocked by the film’s final twist, yet it doesn’t make up for the fact that everything that came before was wholly unoriginal, making the climax ultimately feel flat and silly.
The film also attempts to provide commentary on the trauma of divorce, horrors of racial profiling, dangers of self-harm, and thickness of hereditary bonds that horrendously under serves each theme worse than the last.
However, the performance wise, both Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos are exceptional as always, and make their parental despair believable. Joey King too delivers a strong performance, however, is knocked down by an underwritten character. In other roles, Cas Anvar, Patti Kim, Devery Jacobs and Nicolas Lea are also good. On the whole, ‘The Lie’ is an endlessly dour thriller which squanders its interesting premise.
Directed – Veena Sud
Rated – R
Run Time – 97 minutes