The Movie Waffler New Release Review (VOD) - FLAY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (VOD) - FLAY

flay movie review
A young woman attempts to save her brother and friends from a malevolent spirit.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Eric Pham

Starring: Violett Beane, Elle LaMont, A. Michael Baldwin, Dalton E. Gray, Peggy Schott

flay movie poster

Flay, which purports to be about the revenge of a Native American murdered in the late 1800s but is really not about that at all, begins with a strangely disembodied voice explaining the persecution and genocide of the American Indians, played out over historical images of the hell they were forced to endure. This segues into an explanation about a young Native American shaman who was captured and tortured to death. His face is flayed and he curses the chains that bind him so that any person who touches them suffers a terrible fate wrought by his spirit, which ultimately seems completely unreasonable and unfair.

The very first scene in present day involves a woman called Patricia Moon (Peggy Schott) stealing the chains from an antique store owned by her boyfriend (?) Billy (Phantasm’s A. Michael Baldwin), for reasons only known to her as they aren’t particularly alluring or attractive; a link of which she then decides to integrate into the odd painting she sets to work on.

She’s soon dispatched by a shimmery, barely glimpsed figure.

The next morning we see her home surrounded by police as her daughter Moon (Elle LaMont) arrives and is promptly sexually harassed by the local PD before the ‘good cop’ shows up and takes her under his wing.

flay movie

Moon's brother River (Dalton E. Gray) is the one who found their mother's body, and it seems there’s no love lost within this family as he immediately starts giving his sister attitude despite being mere hours past the deathly discovery. River says his mother is a dead junkie, and the siblings clearly have unresolved issues, particularly around Moon running away to New York years earlier.

Turns out one of River's little stoner friends (girlfriend Beth - the awesomely named Violett Beane) is also weirdly into chains and steals this particular one from the crime scene.

Billy shows up randomly to deliver some home cooked beans and rice, which Moon enjoys while something sinister looks on, and we are then treated to an extended sequence involving River and his winsome girlfriend cavorting about the school after hours looking for somewhere to have sex.

The world’s most persistent teacher follows the couple down to the basement locker room before meeting an untimely and off camera death.

Moon's squeamish and frankly silly interaction with a dead mouse in the art shed/site of mum's death is interrupted by a visit from good cop Tyler (Johnny Walter), who it seems has both a mouse phobia and a previous relationship with Moon.

Tyler, though side-tracked by his flirting with Moon, is there to interview River about the teacher’s death.

flay movie

The next day at Patricia’s wake, Beth gifts her friends with jewellery she has made out of that old cursed chain as they ‘needed something to bind them together’ - great work Beth!

River and his buddies decide to have a little private party and you just know there will be some uninvited and malevolent guests.

It seems that spilled liquids for some reason summon the killer entities and they show up as a tall faceless man (NOT a Native American shaman - what’s that all about??) and a dowdy faceless version of dead Mum.

Things amp up until all of River’s friends are lined up to die like the fodder we’d expected them to be since they were first introduced into the film.

There’s a battle for River’s soul in another dimension that doesn’t make a lick of sense and it all leads to a finale that I truly don’t understand followed by a coda that really adds nothing but more questions.

Weirdly for a horror film, the horror aspect itself seems undercooked and makes little sense. This movie is most successful when it just leaves the horror out altogether and concentrates on the family drama and unfolding of their painful pasts.

The relationship between the siblings is believable and well realised; you can feel a history there. Indeed, the relationships between the group of friends, between ex-boyfriend Tyler and Moon, and between mother and daughter in an almost touching latter scene, are all completely believable and imbued with a sense of longevity.

flay movie

The direction by Eric Pham (who did visual effects for Grindhouse and Sin City) is either workmanlike or confusing, and there is some obvious objectification of the female actors that left me a little cold. The script by Matthew Daley needs a lot of work in terms of clarity and follow through. All the actors are convincing and above average, with the four principles displaying both onscreen charisma and ease.

I’m a sucker for a good ending and will forgive all manner of cinematic sins for a satisfying or twisty finale; however the converse is also true. Though this film had me intrigued, especially with the quality of the acting and cinematography, it all fell apart at the end.

I didn’t like it and I didn’t hate it, but by the conclusion I just felt I had spent a good portion of my evening with little to show for it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - endings matter!

Flay is on VOD later in 2018.