The Lie is a deceptive movie by design.
it’s held together by a mystery that may be clear or may be even more complicated than it seems – but, what I’m sure that it isn’t is a traditional horror movie. Yet its connection to the fledgling Welcome to the Blumhouse series (it being the first of four releases from the iconic horror studio this month) builds a certain sense of expectation to the kind of story you are going to get. This might explain why reviews of the movie are lackluster to say the least, as it has suffered a little from being missold as a straight-up horror. The Lie fits more into the thriller or suspense category but its central question – what is your child truly capable of? -is steeped in the horror tradition.
Kayla, played by Joey King, is being driven by her father (Peter Sarsgaard) to a ballet retreat when they come across Kayla’s friend Brittany at the side of the road; they give Brittany a lift and before long the girls complain that they have to go to the bathroom. It’s clear from their interactions that the girls aren’t on the best of terms, not helped by Brittany visibly panting at Kayla’s father. What happens next fuels the rest of the movie as Kayla, her father, and her mother (Mireille Enos) must deal with Kayla’s shocking and possibly murderous intent.
The tone of The Lie is strange; there are points where it feels like one of those be-careful-what-you-wish-for Lifetime movies, but it’s best moments feel like they have been transposed from a film noir starring Joan Crawford to 2020. Enos as Kayla’s mother is the standout as an attorney whose sense of morality is at war with her maternal instincts to protect her daughter. She so good that at times I was imagining her on a smokey pier in black and white, Mildred Pierce-style, recounting how her daughter ruined her life.
The Lie can be a bit too melodramatic at times but the excellent acting from Enos, Sarsgaard, and the excellent King help turn the screws of this thriller to make it feel truly horrific. The Lie may not be horror in the traditional sense, but it does throw a grenade into a family and allow us to watch it explode in slow motion. Film noir, when it isn’t about a private detective, is about desperate people doing desperate things, and, if you watch The Lie, through that lens you will enjoy a really good piece of suspenseful storytelling
By Kevin Boyle
Header Image: RogerEbert.com