Welcome to the Blumhouse Double Feature: The Lie & Black Box (2020)

As part of a package deal, Blumhouse teamed with Amazon to release four movies directly and exclusively on Prime Video. The stereotypical Blumhouse movie isn’t really in my wheelhouse, but they have begun to branch out in recent years with some movies I enjoyed like The Invisible Man and Upgrade, so I decided to give this bunch a try. They released in pairs and that’s how I watched them, so I’ll review them in the same way too.

The Lie

What would you do if your child told you they killed someone? That’s the premise for the first of the Blumhouse TV movies on Amazon Prime Video, The Lie. This one premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2018 then sat around for a couple of years because it doesn’t have that “it factor”, but it fits well as part of this particular bundle.  

If you’ve watched Defending Jacob on Apple TV, this movie is essentially the opposite. The parents here bend over backward for their daughter despite her incredibly troubling admission but the movie fails to give a compelling reason why. I get that they’re divorced, which definitely plays a role, but there’s very little discussion, if any, about their approach to handling things. Given the information that’s available to the audience, their decision doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but the movie puts its head down and powers through. 

Fortunately, the performances are strong enough to help carry the momentum. Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos are good as the parents, even if a bit frustrating in their approach to handling their daughter. Joey King does a great job as the daughter we love to hate. She has an arrogance and vulnerability that play off each other to great effect. Annoyingly, she never really establishes a great relationship with either parent so she’s just as frustrating as they are. 

Ultimately, the movie effectively raises questions about morality in parenting even if the setup took some liberties to get there and there’s a lot of emotional weight on the table even though it’s all a little outlandish. 

Recommendation: Give it a chance. I know people are dumping on this movie, but I didn’t find it to be that bad. My expectations were low but I was actually glad this wasn’t a run of the mill Blumhouse horror film. It’s really not a horror film at all.

Black Box

If Get Out were an episode of Black Mirror, this would be it. I’m glad to see Blumhouse taking a more outside the box approach and being more inclusive of diverse storytelling voices and styles. This is another recent sci-fi movie that addresses the intersection of grief and technology, which seems to be a popular theme within the genre lately. 

After a car accident that takes his wife and his memory, a desperate young man undergoes an experimental treatment in an attempt to cure his amnesia but gets more than he bargained for.

Writer/Director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour’s first feature-length film deserves a lot of credit, both for its approach and execution. It’s obviously low-budget but it never gets in the way of the narrative and the visual effects are used wisely to complement the story without ever being the focal point. 

The concept is complex, but the story is straight forward and the acting performances fit the bill. Phylicia Rashad is the only name I recognized but Mamoudou Athie was a solid lead and Amanda Christine is great as the daughter. Their chemistry is strong and more than enough to get you to cheer for their story arc. 

I do have a particular affinity for low-budget/high-concept sci-fi, but I still liked this one more than anticipated. 

Recommendation: If you’re in the mood for something a little mind-bendy, this is a good one with some substance. 

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