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COLUMN: Welcome Blumhouse to Amazon with ‘Black Box’ and ‘The Lie’



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Blumhouse is a truly remarkable film studio. Not only has it become something of a widely known name, but it has managed to build a brand for itself. 

When an audience member sees “Blumhouse” on a poster or in a trailer, they have some idea of what to expect. The odds are pretty high it’s a horror movie, and it was almost certainly made on a low budget. While there have been some exceptions to the first part, the most notable arguably being “Whiplash,” most of its films can be categorized like this. 

Blumhouse has lately begun dipping its toes into the world of video streaming, even before the coronavirus started to shut down theaters. In 2018, it began an anthology series on Hulu titled “Into the Dark,” and now it's releasing some Amazon Originals onto Prime Video. 

This is going to serve as a joint review for both “Black Box” and “The Lie,” the first two Blumhouse films distributed by Amazon. I could try to write about each of them separately, but before going in I thought it might be easier to write about them together. Cynically, I didn’t think there would be much to say about either movie. 

I was right. 

“Black Box” is about a man named Nolan who lost both his wife and his memory in a car accident a few months prior. Hoping he’ll be able to take better care of his daughter, he decides to undergo an experimental therapy that might restore his memories. Naturally, things go wrong and his perception of reality starts to fragment. 

Does it sound like “Black Mirror” to you? Yeah, I thought so. And the comparisons don’t stop at the premise. Visually it’s very similar. There isn’t a whole lot of style present, and it definitely looks more like a television show than a feature film. 

The other major similarity is the moderate nonsensical-ness of the whole thing. Lots of story details don’t work well, particularly the specifics of Nolan’s amnesia. The bigger issue is the thematic holes. “Black Box” doesn’t have a clear message. Every time I think I’ve pinpointed the meaning, something else about the film disproves that theory. It ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied. 

There are some other issues, but other than what I’ve already mentioned, it really isn’t that bad. While it has a lot of the problems that come with “Black Mirror” episodes, it also has the positives. The story is just wacky enough to be engaging, even if it’s kinda dumb at times. It also has a twist toward the middle that I really didn’t see coming. 

While I didn’t particularly like “Black Box,” it was far from terrible. It’s entertaining enough and works pretty well as brainless entertainment. If you’re looking for something similar, you could do worse than checking it out on Amazon Prime. 

I can’t say the same about “The Lie.”

“The Lie” is about some kid played by Joey King killing her friend and her parents trying to cover it up. It’s quite bad.

Whereas “Black Box” is an entertaining enough movie with some issues, “The Lie” is a terrible movie with some highlights. Actually, one highlight. Peter Sarsgaard is good. That’s it. 

While “The Lie” is at least coherent, the story is almost aggressively not engaging. There really is nothing original about it. I’ve seen this story before, and I have no doubt I’ll be seeing it again. 

The characters are completely flat. They have paper-thin motivations and virtually no personality traits. It doesn’t help that the actors other than Sarsgaard are terrible. King is particularly bad. I never believed her character for a second, and eventually she just got annoying. 

The final twist at the end is fantastically terrible. It makes sense, but it’s still really stupid and a little bit funny. By the end of the movie I couldn’t take anything seriously, anyway. 

I don’t have much else to say about “The Lie.” It’s just really, really bad. While there’s some fun to be had with the ridiculousness of it all, it’s really not worth wasting your time on. 

So yeah, that’s what Blumhouse is up to. It is going to be releasing a couple more Amazon Originals next week, but I really don’t feel like watching them. If these two movies are any indication, they probably aren’t worth checking out. 

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