If you’re considering covering up a murder that your daughter committed, it’s probably wise to first work out whether or not you are a terrible liar. An early lesson learned in The Lie, one of the two first installments to Jason Blum’s horror anthology series “Welcome to the Blumhouse” to arrive on Amazon Prime.
It falls into the stressful subgenre of movies where someone makes a mistake early on and everything unravels from there–if the outcome is obvious, it’s the journey that provides the pleasure. Or in this case, the pain, as one dreadful and maddeningly implausible decision follows another.
Peter Sarsgaard plays Jay, divorced father of Kayla (Joey King) and who stops to pick up his daughter’s friend Britney on the way to a dance camp. But when Britney and Kayla insist on stopping for a bathroom break tragedy strikes. Britney is killed and Kayla says it’s her fault. In a split second moment of madness Jay decides NOT to call the police. Instead they have a cursory look for the body, fail to find it, then drive to Kayla’s mum Rebecca’s (Mireille Enos) house. After all, Britney was waiting at a bus stop, no one saw them or even knew Britney was with them.
That this is the risible decision-making of an absolute psychopath is something you’re going to have to live with if you plan to watch the whole of The Lie, where ridiculous choices are piled on top of each other for a family with their pants very much on fire.
Soon Britney’s father Sam (Cas Anvar) wants to know where his daughter is and why the family won’t even let him speak to her best friend Kayla. Then the police start closing in, tightening the noose as Rebecca doubles down by trying to implicate Sam in his own daughter’s murder. Meanwhile Kayla is watching television and scarfing pancakes like she hasn’t just (accidentally?) offed her best mate. Maybe the whole family are psychopaths?
There actually is an interesting subtext which could have been better mined here around whether the family really ARE all psychopaths, and whether there’s a level of heredity to that, along with a ‘did she mean to, or didn’t she?’ mystery–something successfully explored in Apple TV’s under watched but excellent series Defending Jacob–but it’s not enough to gloss over the unfathomable behavior of its three leads.
It’s a shame, because performance-wise, there’s some sterling work going on. Enos flits between steely and brutalized as Rebecca, drawn into her ex-husband’s lie and then increasing it tenfold, while Sarsgaard and King do their very best to remain plausible as human beings, even when their actions are not.
Enos reunites with The Killing director Veena Sud here, bringing a similar chilly color palette and escalating tension, but the story’s twists and turns are just too much to get past. The film slightly cheats within its own internal logic, and we’re not sure we’d actually even call The Lie a horror movie. It’s more like a low budget answer to glossy dramas like Big Little Lies, and it might have played well as such were it not for the maddening plot.
Based on the German film Wir Monster (which translates as We Monsters) from 2015 with an equally silly sounding narrative, it’s really unfortunate Sud has chosen such flawed material to work with. By the time the final utterly idiotic twist arrives you’ll be screaming for your time back and angry with what seems to be an otherwise talented cast and crew, Jason Blum included, for tricking you into watching such nonsense.
Not a tale of ‘what lengths would a parent go to protect their child?’ but more ‘what’s the stupidest and most unnecessary way to react to what was probably an accident?,’ The Lie is a disappointing stumble out the gate for this eight part anthology which promises to bring underrepresented voices to the fore. A compelling but infuriating hate watch.