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‘It Stains the Sands Red’ (review)

Produced by Colin Minihan, Stuart Ortiz,
Bic Tran, Brandon Christensen
Written by Colin Minihan, Stuart Ortiz
Directed by Colin Minihan
Starring Brittany Allen, Juan Riedinger,
Merwin Mondesir, Kris Higgins, Nico David,
Michael Filipowich, Andrew Supanz

 

It Stains the Sands Red is a new zombie film that ends up rising above itself to become something unique and special despite handcuffing itself early on.

The film is about Brittany Allen (of the Syfy Channels’ Defiance) having to survive zombies and other hazards in the Las Vegas desert.

Brittney and her banger boyfriend are attempting to reach an airfield 36 miles outside of Vegas to escape the zombie apocalypse. They have not a care in the world… doing coke and drinking while looking forward to “smoking crack in a beach in Mexico until this all blows over”.

Yeah, these are not good people.

After banger gets his car stuck in the dirt things go bad. A single zombie with a persistence of mind takes down banger and leaves Molly (Allen) to escape through the desert on foot.

With the zombie on her trail she quickly realizes that it does not need to stop to rest, does not need to sleep and most of all will not stop while she on the other hand is running out of water, coming down off of cocaine and is out of shape (she is also suffering major period cramps). With the zombie only steps behind her it becomes a battle of wills.

That is the first 40 or so minutes of the movie with Molly arrogantly yelling and finally pleading with the zombie to leave her alone. One really unique angle is that the zombie is able to track her because it can smell her blood (she is in that time of the month after all). Even when he is hiding in a rundown house he can track her since she ran out of tampons.

After Molly encounters a pair of “saviors” who attempt to rape her she is “saved” by the zombie. Here is where the film takes a turn that is both unexpected and oddly interesting. Molly “befriends” the zombie (whom she calls Smalls). She yells at it like you would a dog and it listens. It remembers these base commands from it’s “life”.

Needless to say that Molly and Smalls form a strange bond and Smalls does not attempt eat her any longer. Molly is latching onto anything she can to stay sane and adopts Smalls as a kind of pet (she even teaches him a few “tricks”). Smalls is dead of course but part of his brain is struggling to remember life and similarly latches onto Molly as a master. This is all short lived as the military begins to take over and Smalls must be put down. There is still a half hour of the movie left though.

Soon Molly gets to the airfield but things go tits up and she must retreat into a subdivision which has been overrun. The last 20 minutes are something you should see for yourself though.

It Stains the Sands Red is a mixed bag. There are many cool and unconventional shots (a 360 panoramic of the desert at one point really stands out for what is both happening inside the frame and how the spinning helps it). My main issues are the CG blood (seriously, STOP WITH CG BLOOD) and that the first half hour is pretty dreadful.

Like with series such as The Walking Dead the zombies in this movie are effortless ninjas making absolutely no sounds until you see them… then they growl and start knocking shit over.

The director also gives away many moments by the obvious framing of shots. For instance more than once in the movie a character will be framed or pushed to the right side of the frame and then, yup, the zombie springs up in the unused portion of the frame. Might have been a good scare if it was not completely telegraphed.

The characters are also a problem… which I feel might be intentional (the same might be said for that first half hour being so bland and average only to shift abruptly). The characters are all terrible people. Molly is a character who’s every choice in life is the wrong one. She is shrill, annoying and has no seeming skills or attributes which might make you care whether she lives or dies. That all changes a little after the 30 minute point of the film. I have to think this is on purpose.

Writer/Director Colin Minihan did a similar thing with his previous film Extraterrestrial. Abrupt shifts in story, unlikable characters he forces you to care about and strange offbeat story twists. Every single living male character in the film is also horrible. They are all either crackheads, rapists, drunks or cowards. Not sure if there is a message there or not.

That first half hour seems to be directed by a hack and is filled with far too many tropes of modern horror films. A hack is not what Minihan is though making my thoughts of it being bad completely intentional.

It Stains The Sands Red is something I can recommend but you have to be able make it through that first 30 minutes though… if that was bad as a some kind of attack on the tropes of horror films it may be miscalculated as I wager many will simply turn off the film before they realize what Minihan is doing. This is a more personal zombie movie and with only the opening establishing shot giving us a scale of the chaos it is an oddly focused zombie film.

All in all, Night of the Living Dead this is not. There is no deep political or societal subtext here but there is an unexpectedly solid second half of the movie.

 

It Stains The Sands Red  arrives in select theaters and On Demand on July 28

 

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