What do you get when you cross Amazon Studios with Blumhouse, the production outfit that created Paranormal Activity, just in time for spooky season? A series of eight, incredibly diverse thrillers by up-and-coming directors in a line up called Welcome to the Blumhouse.
The four films, “Black Box,” “Evil Eye,” “Nocturne” and “The Lie” are available for streaming on Amazon, and the other four will be released in 2021. In a roundtable Zoom discussion with college students, the directors of the four thrillers talked about the inspiration and themes behind their newly-released films.
"Black Box,” directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, is about a man who is trying to regain his memory after surviving a car accident that killed his wife, while trying to raise his adorable daughter. He decides to undergo experimental therapy reminiscent of “Get Out” in order to be a better dad. But if you know anything about horror, you know that the treatment didn’t exactly go as planned.
This movie was definitely the creepiest out of the four, with a few scenes that made me squeeze my roommate’s hand in fear (the backwards creature in the film was terrifying). Playing on ideas about family, parental love, second-chances and, most of all, memory in all of its forms, “Black Box” is a movie that will make you curl into yourself.
Osei-Kuffour discussed the difficulties and excitement that came with moving from drama, what he has usually explored as a filmmaker, to the horrors of “Black Box.” He explained why he chose a predominantly Black cast by employing the age-old trope, “write what you know.” Drawing on his experience is how he felt he could accurately portray the story of father-daughter love that drew him to the film after reading the script.
“Evil Eye” is an American horror film directed by Elan and Rajeev Dassani and adapted by playwright Madhuri Shekar from her audio drama. The thriller explored the horrors of one of the most fearful things I can think of — toxic masculinity. An anxious, obsessed mother named Usha is concerned that her 30-year-old daughter Pallavi isn’t married yet — a storyline many first and second-generation immigrants can relate to.
But, after Pallavi meets a handsome stranger that she quickly becomes engaged to, Usha can’t shake the feeling that she can’t escape her past and is being haunted by the curse of the evil eye. The movie incorporated the lore behind the evil eye and Asian concepts of karma, reincarnation and time in a movie that was more sentimental than scary. After watching the movie, I felt the strong urge to call my mom and check in on her.
“Evil Eye” discussed generational trauma and the cycle of domestic violence that haunts many women, especially in India, where 1 in 3 women may experience domestic abuse. The evil eye and Usha’s unshakable superstition are the ways that Usha contextualizes the horrible violence that she experienced in her lifetime and was trying to prevent her daughter from throughout the film.
The directors discussed why they were drawn to the script, which they described as interesting because it used a “religious concept but in a way to tell a propulsive thriller.” Reincarnation was employed as a metaphor to understand domestic violence as a cycle of violence.
“The Lie,” originally a German film, remade and directed by Veena Sud in 2018, is an epic portrayal of helicopter parenting at its grimmest. Pre-”The Kissing Booth” Joey King stars as Kayla, a teenager in all of her angsty glory.
After Kayla admits to committing an unspeakable act against her best friend, her parents do everything they can to protect their daughter, which results in Kayla being absolved of accountability, a commentary on the way that many children are being raised without consequences.
The bone-chilling thought of what love can lead you to is what makes the movie terrifying. Is it love that drives parents into doing whatever it is that prevents their children from being disciplined, or something even more carnal and horrifying? The end of the movie truly left me disturbed, with a plot twist that even my usual spot-on movie predictions didn’t see coming.
Sud discussed how she wanted to incorporate anti-Muslim and anti-South Asian sentiments, playing on ideas of perceived victimhood. “I wanted it to be very clear that in America, as a man of color and as a Muslim, especially in this day and age … the victim then becomes the perpetrator.” This added a layer of additional fear to the movie, by employing relevant and ever-rising xenophobia and nativism.
It’s safe to say that any form of entertainment featuring the iconic Sydney Sweeney is a treat, and “Nocturne” is no exception. Sweeney plays Juliet, a quiet and shy musician that lives in the shadows of her twin sister — until she finds a notebook that belonged to a classmate that recently committed suicide.
The mysterious notebook and Juliet’s obsession with her work compel her to become somebody unrecognizable by the end of the film.
The brilliant directing, perfect casting and amazing use of light and imagery resulted in a film that confronted the idea of sacrifice and commitment that hit a little too close to home for me, a grade-obsessed college student.
Writer and director of the film Zu Quirke discussed how the film was personal for her as a former competitive violinist. She also discussed the truth behind “write what you know” but explained that as long as there is some “emotional truth” in what writers are attempting to portray, then they can truly write about anything and make it their own.
Instead of being kept up at night from how terrifying these films are, I found myself being unable to sleep because I was thinking about the subtle brilliance behind all of the films. The wonderful thing about thrillers is that they force you to think and can creep you out by taking you to the most disturbing corners of your fears.
Grab your coziest blanket and your quarantine pals to watch these films on Amazon Prime Video to destress from the horrors of midterms.