Starting today, fans can check out the first two films of the Welcome to the Blumhouse collection which have officially arrived on Amazon Prime Video: Black Box and The Lie. In the latter, we’re introduced to an angsty teen named Kayla (Joey King), who admits to accidentally killing one of her friends, and her divorced parents (Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos) must provide a united front as they try to figure out just how exactly they’re going to handle this unthinkable predicament.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Veena Sud, who directed The Lie and wrote the screenplay (which was based off the story from the original film, Wir Monster), and she discussed how this remake initially came together. Sud also chatted about the timeliness of The Lie, the family dynamics at the heart of this story, and more.
Great to speak with you today, Veena. Was this something that Blumhouse approached you for, or was this a project that came to you and then it just felt like a right fit for Blumhouse? I'm just curious how the stars aligned on this film.
Veena Sud: My producer Alix Madigan had the rights to remake the German film by Sebastian Ko. She showed me the film and I was blown away and I knew right away that I wanted to take a swing at it. So I did my own American take and wrote the draft. I was running a show at the same time, so it took a little bit of time. But when I was done, I had about a seven month window open before I had to go on another show. So I told Alex, "We have to go out right away." She did. Within two days, Jason [Blum] called and we met, and within 20 minutes of us meeting, he said he was really confident about the film. He loved the draft I had done and he said, "Let's do it," and then two months later, we were in prep.
There's a timeliness to this that I wasn't expecting, and I was wondering if that was at the back of your mind when you were working on the film. There are these genre elements, the family dynamics and everything like that, but did it dawn on you just how much the timeliness of certain aspects of this story could resonate with viewers?
Veena Sud: In terms of the teenage dilemma of social media and the type of heightened emotions that happen between teenagers and that any sort of gossip on technology can rot in a terrible way—yes. It feels like we've been on a crash course with that for a while, and there's certainly been so many dark stories about what can happen when things are misinterpreted or taken to heart that are just teenagers being teenagers.
In terms of the character of Sam Ifrani, the Pakistani dad, it was really important to me when I decided to do an American version of The Lie, that it be an American version. Of course, I wasn't anticipating the uprising, but the issues that the uprising deal with in terms of racism from law enforcement and the criminal justice system have been happening for decades. I wanted this story to be addressing that, an aspect of that. So yes, at the heart of The Lie is also a story about when a brown man is the victim of a crime, too. Often, he becomes a perceived perpetrator because of the country that we live in, because of the deeply flawed so-called criminal justice system that we abide by. So yes, the fact that the film is coming out now is certainly resonant.
The Lie poses some interesting and contemplative questions and I think that's something that's going to really stick with viewers. What would you do if you thought your kid was a monster and how do you handle that and how do you still remain good people, but ultimately you're still trying to protect your child? There are some huge moral dilemmas in this story, and I was wondering if you found that challenging to deal with as a storyteller?
Veena Sud: I was very interested in playing into the human elements of this story and of the psychological thriller aspects as well. I'm always fascinated by what is deeply rooted in the human experience and the subtleties of that. So, not just fear and despair, but love and tenderness, and all of us who are parents, that's the most tender part of us—our children—and it’s also the most conflicting part of us, I think, and the place full of potential for guilt and blame. It's a fragile thing being a parent and bringing a life into the world and guiding that life and then blaming oneself for every mistake that's made along the way relentlessly.
And Peter and Mireille both brought that to the characters. This is something we talked about at great length, is guilt. How have we failed our children? How do they fail Kayla? What would you do to try to make up for your perceived disappointment of your child, if not outright abandonment, which is something that the character of Jay is grappling with mightily throughout this film, is all the ways that he's fallen down on the job for his child and his family. And the arc of the character is a man who is a child who becomes a man. As monstrous as he is by the end, there is nothing that will derail him from protecting his child.
So that in and of itself has other implications given the racial context of the story and other consequences for this family, but working with Peter, who is such an honest person, he kicks every tire, he makes sure there were no false notes in the writing. It was wonderful to work with an actor who challenged me smartly, because Peter is very smart and very seasoned. He knows what he's doing, and his performance is extraordinary. He loves his children. That was the one thing that Mireille and Peter and I talked about so much is how vulnerable this love makes a human being.
I know we're getting close on time, but I wanted to talk about Rebecca's house. There's the brutality and the bluntness of what kicks off this story and is the catalyst, and yet most of the film happens at Rebecca's home, which is very clean and very orderly. It's such a really interesting visual juxtaposition to what's going on in these people's lives, the messiness of everything in the things that they're dealing with.
Veena Sud: That was the whole visual theme of The Lie—the conflict between what seems to be a beautiful bucolic suburban world and a beautiful white house with no garbage anywhere, and the horror that lies beneath. The truth that no one's talking about. We start off in the woods, where it looks like we're in a Christmas card, and there's a dead girl's body on the banks of a river. So those two, the sweet and the sour, are always interesting to me. I always love putting something where it doesn't belong. So to take a home like Rebecca's, which is so pristine and clean lines and perfectly painted white walls, it's almost as though no one lives there, and to put three people who are losing their minds in a house made out of glass where everyone can look in, is drama to me.