Flay (2020)

A woman attempts to investigate her mother’s death in this sometimes-haunting thriller inspired by an Internet phenomenon.

After her drug-addicted mother had been found dead, Moon Crane is returning home for the funeral. There, she is already at odds with her brother River, who blames her for leaving him to take care of their mother. Moon also runs into ex-boyfriend Tyler Forman, who is now a police officer. The sheriff warns Tyler that the case may be coincidental to another case from 20 years ago and asks him to make sure Moon doesn’t enter the crime scene.

When River’s girlfriend Bethany goes into the garage, she comes across a chain. Soon enough, she breaks up pieces of it in order to make some stuff for River and their friends. However, things soon begin to become dangerous when after possessing her part of the chain, Bethany’s driver’s education teacher is found dead. In addition, Moon and River begin to experience visions that may be connected to their mother’s death. As the body count rises, Moon is worried River may be next and must do what it takes to protect him.

Inspired by the controversial Slender Man phenomenon, this film directed by Eric T. Pham is a mixed bag that has some scares, but suffers from an important plot hole that soon gives the film a notion of making no sense. Perhaps this is for budgetary and timing reasons, but the importance of a narration and the use of a cursed chain should make all for what could have been an underrated film. And yet, this film is a bit underwhelming in terms of its narration.

That doesn’t mean that the acting is bad because for what it’s worth, it does have some pretty good performances notably from Elle LaMont and Dalton E. Gray as Moon and River, the siblings who soon find themselves haunted by the Slender Man like presence. Peggy Schott can be seen in flashbacks as the kids’ mother, who we see before her death, was trying to get rid of her addictions once and for all. Johnny Walter does his best as ex-boyfriend turned cop Tyler, who tries to make the most of the situation despite all warnings. As River’s girlfriend Bethany, Violett Beane gives a performance that gives off sort of a bad vibe and it is that character whose taking of the chain leads to the body count.

But here is where lies the biggest offense of the film. The opening narration describes a Native American shaman getting tortured and flayed by Confederate soldiers but not before placing a hex on the chain that bound him. While Moon sees visions of this very opening sequence and story, the curse itself is very rarely mentioned it at all within the story. The closest to the curse we get is Tyler talking to Moon about similar cases that occurred over eighty years ago. The scares themselves are mostly non-gory with the exception of the Native American’s “flaying” towards the finale. However, while some of the film does succeed in the scare department, others are not so exciting.

Flay had the potential, but with a major plot hole and a few unexciting performances, this is one film that just may not satisfy even the most hardcore fan of supernatural horror. Only a few good things here and there, but ultimately a very mixed bag of mishmash.

WFG RATING: D+

Random Media presents a Phame Factory production. Director: Eric T. Pham. Producers: Eric Pham and Kristine Pham. Writer: Matthew Daley. Cinematography: Gary Tachell. Editing: Adam Ketcham.

Cast: Elle LaMont, Dalton E. Gray, Johnny Walter, Peggy Schott, Violett Beane, Noe de la Garza, Sarah Joy Byington, Kaylee King, Aaron Spivey-Sorrells.

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