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Veena Sud: 'The Lie' reflects 'the real life horror of America today'

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Veena Sud: 'The Lie' reflects 'the real life horror of America today'
Veena Sud wrote and directed "The Lie" for "Welcome to Blumhouse." File Photo by Christine Chew/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Production company Blumhouse has succeeded with horror movies that address societal issues, such as Jordan Peele's Get Out and Us, which dealt with racism in violent tales. In writer/director Veena Sud, Blumhouse found another filmmaker who could use genre to speak to social issues.

"The real life horror of America today is the criminal justice system and how it treats human beings radically different based on the color of their skin," Sud told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "That's a crime and that's the real horror."

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The Lie is part of Welcome to the Blumhouse, a new anthology series on Amazon. Each episode is a feature-length movie.

In The Lie, parents Rebecca (Mireille Enos) and Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) help their daughter Kayla (Joey King) cover up the death of her friend, Brittany (Devery Jacobs). Kayla admits to her parents that she pushed Brittany into a frozen river when they were fighting.

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When Brittany's father, Sam (Cas Anvar), comes asking if Kayla has seen his daughter, Rebecca hatches a plan. She suggests to police that Sam may have abused Brittany. Sud created Sam as Pakistani to explore how police treat him versus the White family.

"Even though this is the story of an American family, it's also a microcosm of the bigger American experience of racial injustice," Sud said.

Producer Alix Madigan noted that none of Sam's actions are villainous. He panics and yells at Rebecca, Jay and Kayla because he is worried about his daughter, but the police perceive him as a suspect.

"The police are treating him with such great suspicion and hostility," Madigan said in a phone interview. "Very unfortunately, that scenario has a great deal of resonance today."

Enos believes Rebecca knew full well she was praying upon prejudices among law enforcement to distract them from Kayla.

"I think she's smart enough to understand the scope of what she's doing," Enos said in a separate Zoom interview.

Sud adapted the German film Wir Monster. She said the original film had all White characters, so she made Sam Pakistani in the adaptation.

"I wanted this version to tell the story of the country I live in," Sud said.

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The original film appealed to Sud, she said, because she grew up a fan of Edgar Allen Poe's story The Tell-Tale Heart. In Poe's story, the narrator kills another man, but his guilt manifests as the victim's beating heart.

Wir Monster and The Lie offered a modern-day scenario in which keeping secrets destroys a family.

"It's a fear to be haunted by the things that we've done, the bad things that we've done," Sud said.

Rebecca, Jay and Joey's misdeeds lead to more, as the lie spirals deeper and deeper. Enos observed how even implicating Sam doesn't resolve her family's fear of being discovered.

"Keeping secrets is scary and it's toxic," Enos said. "That leads to paranoia and then the weight of the secret just grows. It's insidious."

Enos, Sarsgaard and Sud previously worked together on the TV series The Killing. Sud and Enos said making a film together was different than making the show.

Sud said with The Killing, she'd provide the cast plot details because they would pertain to their performances over the whole season. Sud said they rehearsed for The Lie by discussing the backstory of the family and the characters.

"During rehearsal, we never went through dialogue," Sud said. "We just talked."

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Enos recalled hashing out the history of Rebecca and Jay's marriage as the couple has divorced when The Lie begins.

Enos believed Rebecca took responsibility for organizing the family, and resented Jay's free-spirited approach to their lives.

"Those roles start to become more polarized because one of them says, 'We have to be responsible for this child,'" Enos said. "Then there's resentments and ultimately in the split they really chose their corners in the boxing ring."

The one thing the characters agree on is giving Kayla an alibi for Brittany's disappearance. Sud hopes the destructive nature of this family's lie is clear to audiences.

"The night that descends psychologically and spiritually on this family is unending," Sud said. "At the end, they are animals just working out of necessity."

Welcome to the Blumhouse premieres Tuesday with The Lie and Black Box.

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