The Lie is a generic, inauspicious inauguration for Amazon’s Welcome to the Blumhouse collaboration.
Just in time for Halloween, uber-producer Jason Blum (and his Blumhouse Pictures) has teamed up with Amazon to release eight features directly to the commerce giant’s streaming platform. While the press release materials seem to tout this as a series of spine-tingling chillers, it’s also careful to mention that not all the films are necessarily horror. So one can’t fully claim that Blum & Co are pulling a bait and switch, as The Lie is at best thriller-adjacent, more a family melodrama with a crime as its inciting incident. It’s a Lifetime original movie, except with an over-qualified cast and the self-serious aesthetics of Denis Villeneuve’s obnoxious Prisoners. It’s also unclear how many, or even if any, of these films have been produced explicitly for this series. The Lie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival way back in 2018, suggesting that this promotion is more a convenient dumping ground for unwanted product. Whatever it’s providence, The Lie belongs on a small screen, where one can feel free to fold laundry or play games on their phone, only intermittently glancing up at their TVs.
Written and directed by Veena Sud, a veteran television producer and showrunner, The Lie is a remake of a German film from 2015. Seeing how her old AMC show The Killing was itself a remake of a Danish program, it’s worth wondering why Sud can’t bother to come up with her own completely generic variations on countless Law & Order episodes. Rebecca (Mireille Enos) and Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) are a divorced couple bouncing their teenage daughter, Kayla (Joey King), between the two of them. When the irresponsible Jay is tasked with taking Kayla to a weekend ballet camp, they come across one of her friends, Brittany (Devery Jacobs), and offer her a ride. The girls gossip and bicker, and when they stop for an unscheduled bathroom break, the girls take off into a snowy, wooded area. Dad lingers behind, hears a scream, and finds Kayla alone, on a bridge, admitting that she pushed Brittany off of it while they were goofing around. So begins the titular lie, as dad flees the scene with daughter in tow, leaving Brittany for dead. Rebecca is a former cop and is now a lawyer, and she’s convinced that the local DA won’t care if it was an accident or not and will throw the book at their child. Before long, the whole family is in on the deception, but a series of mistakes and pressures start piling up, including the missing girl’s persistent father (Cas Anvar), a misplaced cellphone, and Kayla suddenly proclaiming that she actually hated Brittany and that she killed her on purpose.
It’s awfully familiar stuff, particularly now that multi-part true crime serials have taken over basic cable networks and Netflix. Enos and Sarsgaard are old pros, consummate character actors capable of injecting some energy into their standard-issue roles, and King is admittedly quite good as Kayla. But they’re failed on every level thanks to a paint-by-numbers script and Sud’s tepid direction. Like many TV veterans making the jump to feature films, Sud seems to think that simply shooting in scope is a shortcut to looking cinematic. In The Lie, that belief instead translates to a lot of empty space in the frame, with haphazard staging and endless shot-counter-shot conversations. There’s a gray, overcast pallor saturating the entire film, a fitting enough choice given the subject matter, but there’s no variation to the gloom and it quickly becomes oppressively repetitive. The Lie eventually wraps up with a ludicrous twist ending, one of those swerves that wants to shock you with its audacity but in fact renders the preceding 90 minutes moot. And the twist, much like the film itself, commits the cardinal sin of entirely falling apart if thought about for more than a few minutes. All in all, The Lie marks an inauspicious beginning to the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” promotion. With three more films premiering in the next few weeks, and another four arriving in 2021, let’s hope this is as bad as it gets.
You can currently stream Veena Sud’s The Lie on Amazon Prime.