Teenagers set out on a road trip to document a race. On the way they discover an old, abandoned castle, and they decide to check it out. Soon they find themselves trapped, and something in there wants they to stay...
A road trip horror movie is a road trip movie. We usually know where they are going: the group that set out on the trip are either going specifically to a cabin, or they have a problem/stop near a strange, remote place. And horror ensues. It's with mixed feelings I can say that "The Flaying" takes much of the atmosphere that we can feel early on in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and skews it to something a bit more modern (though it is still set in kinda the same era as "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" - I'm not sure if they specify what year it is, so that will do).
In "The Flaying" (I prefer the original title, but my general rule is: use the title that I personally call a movie, and "The Flaying" was slightly easier to use for me) the group of teenagers, four teenagers to be specific, are going to see an illegal race and hopefully be able to document it all with their cameras. The long trip comes to an end when they find a castle in the middle of a forest and they want to check it out. As you might guess, they really should've continued their trip instead! They're trapped by something and a weird figure starts showing up (you'll understand later why "showing up" is a good term to use).
I said that it was with mixed feelings that this reminded me of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". That's because the first 50 minutes of "The Flaying" is kinda like the beginning of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Imagine that movie, except they don't meet the Sawyers (yes, not even the hitchhiker) so it's just a movie about people driving somewhere. That's what the first 50 minutes of "The Flaying" is. It's exciting that they kinda captures the 70's spirit, but it gets boring. Very, very boring. In fact, it's more boring than it had to be - there are a ton of shots that go on for too long. Trim those and you'll have a slightly better paced movie!
So we hit the 50 minutes mark and things are starting to happen. They find themselves in a castle, and a skinny figure with just cloth covering his junk and something covering his face/jaw. It was either more cloth, or a beard - either way, the skinny motherfucker looks freaky as hell. Kudos for that, I think they managed to create a really bizarre villain right there, and it doesn't help that he seems entirely detached from any sort of consciousness while walking around. Sadly, the horror of this movie is not presented well. The figure often just happens to come into frame, with no use of sound or music to heighten the tension. He's just there. And he does surprisingly little. When the teenagers are trapped we get a few moments that resemble horror, but again not much happens.
It's a shame when the movie set up a great 70's atmosphere, had a fantastic little creature as the villain, that it doesn't go for more terror than it does. It does look very good though - the use of colored lights help sell the movie as something much bigger. The production values overall are quite impressing.
"The Flaying" shows that Nicolás Amelio-Ortiz has potential to make a really freaky horror movie in the future. "The Flaying" also shows how important pacing, editing and sound can be - the biggest issue being that this movie doesn't control it very well. It's not a waste of time as it made me aware of this up-and-coming director, and I feel many of the shots made it worth at least having seen it. It's simply not a very exciting horror movie, where it could have been gnarly and raw it just decides to kinda... linger.