“Welcome to the Blumhouse” is a new series of eight films that are being intermittently released by Blumhouse Television and Amazon Studios, and first up to the plate is Black Box and The Lie. If these debut entries are any indication of what’s to come, then there’s little to look forward to in the upcoming slate. Combined, these two opening films offer little to heighten the Blumhouse name.

Blumhouse and its head, Jason Blum, have had their names attached to projects ranging from Get Out to the Unfriended and Insidious franchises; it’s a studio that’s always happy to push genre films to the forefront of the market, regardless of how ridiculous they may seem at first. That’s why “Welcome to the Blumhouse” seems, at first, like such a great idea, until you realize that the studio is likely reserving this straight-to-Amazon release for films that don’t quite meet the bar. Blum is also a producer on the Hulu anthology series “Into the Dark,” which features subpar horror films and seems to work in parallel with what “Welcome to the Blumhouse” is destined to become. But, again, this is a judgement made after only two releases… so, perhaps, the upcoming schedule will be better.

Black Box is like a prolonged “Black Mirror” episode that stretches itself far too thin in terms of ideas and execution, despite having a few moments of intrigue amongst the dullness. It follows a man named Nolan (Mamoudou Athie), who undergoes an experimental brain procedure after losing his wife and his memory to a car accident. He lives with his young daughter (Amanda Christine), who he doesn’t even remember, and spends each day struggling to piece together the life he knew before his head trauma. The experiment, run by a suspicious doctor (Phylicia Rashad), plunges Nolan deep into his memories. However, once there, he finds that all the faces are blurry, and something just doesn’t seem right, especially when an entity known as the “Backwards Man” begins crawling toward Nolan right before he shoots awake in terror.

There are a few moments where Black Box satisfies, but it’s certainly few and far between. Overall, it’s pretty over-complicated and rather dumb, with a twist that offer interesting ruminations on the ideas surrounding identity and our own realities, but it never pushes these ideas to their full potential. It shares some similarities with the recently released Brandon Cronenberg film, Possessor, but without the added benefit of being a good movie. Quite honestly, the most interesting thing about the entire film is that its lead, Athie, sounds distractingly like Adam Driver when he speaks. It’s truly uncanny, and one of the only aspects that kept pulling me back into the film. He even punches a wall!

However, Black Box is a masterpiece compared to The Lie, which is outright ridiculous. It offers a story of cliches and cartoonish plot developments that may have you howling in your seat. While driving to a dance competition, Kayla (Joey King, forced to play teenagers for all eternity) and her father, Jay (Peter Sarsgaard), experience an accident that sets their entire universe akilter. In attempts to protect their daughter and cover up “the lie,” Jay and his estranged wife, Rebecca (Mireille Enos), do whatever they can to cover up their tracks, all while being concerned over Kayla’s nonchalant attitude surrounding the entire ordeal. What we’re left with is a very silly film that takes itself far too seriously, all amounting to an absurd twist that you can see coming from a mile away (along with a little dash of The Parent Trap for good measure). With overacting aplenty, it’s a fairly agonizing watch for being an over-the-top bore and essentially pointless story.

Both films offer a disappointing beginning for “Welcome to the Blumhouse,” but we’ll have to see what future entries have in store. If this is any indication, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Both films offer a disappointing beginning for "Welcome to the Blumhouse," but we'll have to see what future entries have in store. If this is any indication, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
40 %
Honestly Terrible
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