Blumhouse productions founded by Jason Blum in 2000 brought a new age of horror for viewers. Starting with Paranormal activity which had people constantly looking over their shoulder for invisible demons on to an equally scary experience with Insidious. (Tiptoe Through The Tulips still haunts me) I don’t enjoy supernatural horror films, instead favouring psychological ones which focus on characters and world building rather than jump scares. Happy Death Day and Get Out brought new depth to the horror genre so when I heard about “Welcome to the Blumhouse” , a release of four films for streaming on Amazon, excitement levels were high. This is my ranking of the collection, although I should note that all these films are phenomenal and push the horror genre in an exciting and new direction:
A genre bending horror, Evil Eye focuses on Pallavi and Usha, a mother and daughter who have a long distance relationship. Usha lives in New Delhi while Pallavi is in New Orleans. Their video chats consist of Usha convincing her daughter to get married as soon as possible, setting up dates on her behalf. When she meets one of these potential husbands Pallavi is introduced to charismatic Sandeep and the two hit it off right away. Evil Eye explores this new relationship from the perspective of both women as Usha starts suspecting not everything is as it seems. Written by Madhuri Shekar and directed by Elan and Rajeev Dassani, the directors wanted to to tell the story of an Indian matriarch without the overbearing stereotype of a mother that is always shown on screen. They wanted to tell the story of a woman who had lived a full life and wanted to draw attention to themes of domestic abuse and the cycle of violence. The directors were influenced by films such as Unsane, The Babadook, the Sixth sense and various Hitchcock films where someone is not sure of what is going on around them. They also drew inspiration from The Farewell which similarly deals with first generation kids navigating their parent’s culture.
Dealing with important themes of abusive relationships and obsessive partners, Evil Eye brings these issues to the forefront and explores how parents can protect their children from such toxic relationships. However it did not surprise me and nor did it do anything too unique with the plot. Sarita Choudhury and Sunita Mani brought an amazing dynamic and chemistry to the mother daughter relationship. Choudhury’s acting is so good the viewer can see each of the emotional states she depicts fostering empathy for her as the situation unravels. Omar Maskati brought across charming Sandeep with ease. He comes across as the type of guy any mother would want for their daughter. The cinematography represented the distance between mother and daughter with some stunning shots of Delhi and New Orleans. I didn’t quite understand the evil eye symbolism as the film glossed over it without too much in the way of explanation.
A great film about long distance relationships and protecting children from making the same mistakes as parents, Evil Eye is my least favourite of this Blumhouse collection but provides food for thought about relationships.
What lengths would any parent go to in order to protect their child? When Jay is on the way to drop off his daughter Kayla and her friend Brittany to dance camp, Kayla claims to have pushed Brittany off a bridge. Trying to protect his daughter, Jay and his ex wife Rebecca try to cover this up but at what cost? Written and directed by Veena Sud (The Stranger) adapted from German film, “We are Monsters”. She wanted to focus on how far people would go to protect a loved one and on the secrets and deceptions that can exist within a family.
The subject matter discussed here is interesting showing how easily words can affect a situation. It is a little bit predictable as you do catch on to what is going on early on. Joey King is amazing at everything she does (especially The Act). The Lie is no exception as she convincingly portrays a messed up teenager with ease. Mireille Enos and Peter Sarsgaard portray her worried parents, trying their best to protect her. The acting is so superb you do not recognize the characters when they are at the end of their journey. The cinematography is stunning with shots of the snow capped landscape framing the scenes well. This has been getting the lowest ratings of this Blumhouse collecton yet I found it a very intriguing piece of cinema. While a lot of horror films focus on things that are beyond belief, this movie depicts a realistic situation that could happen to any family.
Predictable but twisted nonetheless, The Lie shows how easily a family can be destroyed.
Sibling rivalry at it’s finest, Nocturne follows two sisters as they navigate a prestigious school for the performing arts, one more talented than the other. Always in her sister’s shadow Juliet decides to change this when she discovers a mysterious music book that helps others notice her talent and grows her confidence after she plays each of it’s pieces. Written and directed by Zu Quirke (Tiny Bible, White, Ghosting) who based this story on her own experiences as a violinist at the age of five, surrounded by people who decided to dedicate their life to classical music from such a young age. She wanted to focus on what it looks like to give up your childhood to pursue your dreams and sacrificing everything. Juliet is loosely based on her and the competitiveness she felt at that age. The film focuses on Juliet’s dreams and how they are unlikely to come true but she keeps trying at all costs rather than pursuing something else.
I like this for it’s similarity to films such as Black Swan and The Perfection where characters face fierce competition to excel, cracking when they face an enormous amount of pressure. The concepts of sacrifice to excel at something and sibling jealousies are explored well. The viewer feels Juliet’s pain as her sister has been outshining her for their whole life. This one is very psychological with some eerily scary moments, especially that one scene with the mirror. Sydney Sweeney brought across the shy withdrawn nature of Juliet, who has always felt like the one with lesser talent. Her acting highlights the change in Juliet’s character when she finds the book and starts unleashing it’s power.
For fans of Black Swan and The Perfection, Nocturne explores a young musician’s dreams and the sacrifices that come with them.
My favourite of these Blumhouse originals, this movie delivers what a good black mirror episode can and goes even further. When Nolan loses his wife and memory in a car accident he begins noticing how this is affecting his daily life and in particular his daughter Ava. He decides to undergo an experimental treatment to bring his memory back. This involves going into a VR environment where he must confront his lost memories. Directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour (Born with it, Infliction, The First Time) and written by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour and Stephen Herman, this movie focuses on the indestructible bond between a parent and child. Osei Kuffour’s films are usually coming of age dramas where kids are dealing with adult situations . He sees his film as a mix between Black Swan and The Pursuit of Happiness, as it deals with someone constantly questioning his identity and sense of reality, while also focusing on family bonds and the relationship he has with his daughter.
Black Box is the exploration of a relationship between a father and daughter representing unconditional love for a family member when they are in a vulnerable position. Ava does this for her father, caring for him when he can’t remember key things about life. It shows the impact on memory loss and focuses on abusive relationships and their effect on family. I enjoyed how forgotten memories are represented as the backwards man and people without faces showing how difficult forgetting such important things can be. Black Box certainly plays with horror elements but makes this experience psychological rather than choosing a supernatural trope. The VR treatment to get memories back was a very interesting aspect of the plot, the glitchy cinematography in the VR world adding to this. America’s Got Talent contestant Troy James was casted as The Backwards Man, because he was able to depict the movements required for this role. Mamoudou Athie had not seen what Troy could do before filming which made his reactions to the horror character in the film real.
All the acting brought across the characters and their complexity . Mamoudou Athie, Amanda Christine and Phylicia Rashad were all incredible. Athie had a lot of different aspects to his character that he brought across with ease. The acting combined with the story and how much Nolan wants to remember for his daughter made me tear up a bit facilitating an emotional response.
A technological horror film with many twists and turns, Black Box is my pick for best film in the Blumhouse collection.
Hope you enjoyed my take on Welcome to the Blumhouse.
Next week I will share my top 10 films from 2020 in time for the New Year. Looking forward to seeing what cinema in 2021 brings.
If you want to see what else I’m watching take a look at my letterboxd: