Flay is a ghost story in which a sister (Ella LaMont) and brother (Dalton E. Gray) are plagued by haunted paint. Whilst that sounds ludicrous, the film, itself, isn’t nearly as interesting. Many scenes involve both literally and figuratively watching paint dry.
Whilst the siblings being plagued by a mysterious, malevolent entity after losing their mother is a solid set-up, it never amounts to anything more than seemingly endless soap-opera arguments between the two. Watching it feels like being caught in front of a family argument whilst visiting your friend’s house. It’s not particularly entertaining; it’s just sort of awkward and you’d like to leave.
The film was inspired by both Japanese and Native American folklore, which would have made for a nice spin on the usual proceedings, but it never manifests as anything other than an exposition dump at the start. As such, the closest thing to a fresh and original idea in the film is that the ghost occasionally takes the form of what would appear to be a conscious, but legally-safe rip-off of Slender Man. This might have been noteworthy if it were the first film to make use of the character, but it’s a few years late for that.
That said, plenty of great ghost stories exist without a shred of originality to them. More often than not, the make of a good horror film is in the execution rather than the concept. Marking the directorial debut of Eric Pham (who cut his teeth as a visual effects artist on a number of Robert Rodriguez films), you’d be forgiven for expecting something a little bit more stylish and accomplished than Flay, which, sadly, suffers from almost absurdly bland direction. Much like the canvases featured throughout the film, the whole thing is completely flat.
At no point in the film does any sense of artistry enter the equation. In lower budget films, you’ll often find more care and consideration put into them because the people working on them are there for reasons other than money. In higher budget films, you’ll find the best care and consideration that money can buy. Flay seems to have been produced within an awkward space of having a little bit of money to spend but only being able to hire professionals completely lacking in emotional investment for the project.
Perhaps most damning of all is that for a film directed by a visual effects supervisor, the visual effects are pathetic. The few practical effects dotted around are passable, but the majority of the film relies on digital trickery and the results are less impressive than a Snapchat filter.
At one point in the film, the ghost reaches its hand menacingly out of a puddle of spilt milk. A few more moments like that might have earned the project a place as midnight-screening fodder of the so-bad-its-good variety, but the film is far too dull and uninteresting for the majority of its runtime which is largely made up of scenes of family bickering.
FLAY / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: ERIC PHAM / SCREENPLAY: MATTHEW DALEY / STARRING: VIOLETT BEANE, ELLE LAMONT, A. MICHAEL BALDWIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US), TBC (UK)