It’s officially the Halloween season, meaning it’s finally time that the rest of the world decides to revel in the horror genre to the degree that yours truly (The Horror Chickk) chooses to do so year-round. While I do indulge in the horror realm all throughout the year, there is something special about popping on a horror movie in October. As such, what better time of the year than to pick up a staple of the genre, a good old-fashioned zombie flick? But wait, you might be saying to yourself, hasn’t that subgenre of horror gotten played out over the last few years? What on earth could a zombie movie do to show us something new?
Enter IT STAINS THE SANDS RED, a zombie film that takes a very different approach to post-apocalyptic storytelling. The film begins with Molly (Brittany Allen), a troubled woman from Las Vegas, and her boyfriend Nick fleeing the city in hopes of finding refuge from the zombie apocalypse. One broken down car later, and the pair find themselves in a terrible predicament when a lone ravenous zombie emerges from the desert wilderness. After the zombie devours Nick, Molly flees for her life into the desert, with the zombie following right on her trail. At first, she’s easily able to outpace her undead pursuer, but things quickly become a nightmare when she realizes the zombie doesn’t need to ever stop and rest. Running low on supplies and beat down by the harsh environment, Molly will have to summon the strength she never knew she had to ultimately face both the zombie and the demons that have chased her all her life.
Directed by Colin Minihan, this film does something right off the bat that sets it apart from many contemporary zombie films, and that’s by focusing on the threat of a single undead creature that wants to eat you. More often than not, modern zombie films focus less on the threat of one zombie, but on the threat of a giant horde. As such, we have almost become desensitized to seeing a protagonist dispatch numerous zombies in any given scene, retreating only when their numbers have become too overwhelming for even our hero. Not only has modern media gotten us accustomed to seeing droves of zombies being taken out in a singular scene, but an oversaturation of the market has driven us to become bored with the very concept of zombies. It’s gotten to the point where we have forgotten just how frightening it was to see that first lone zombie in the graveyard in the opening scene of Romero’s classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Until now that is. Conceptually speaking, this movie is brilliant. By choosing to focus on the plight of one person trying to survive both the elements and a single zombie, the film has created an intriguing character study. Allen, for lack of a better way of phrasing it, absolutely kills it as Molly, the woman who finds herself in a deadly endurance test in which she must survive crossing nearly 40 miles of desert alone within a relatively short time period to make it to safety, all while trying to outrun and outlast the unyielding undead monster that pursues her. Her performance is absolutely stellar, and she excels in carrying the full momentum of the film on the strength of her acting alone. Additionally, the film itself has a damn good concept that makes the absolute most of the confines of a small horror movie budget. With this movie, as it is with some of the best horror films ever made, less really is more.
That is, for the first half of the film. What starts of as an excellent character study sadly falls apart about halfway through the film. When the film shifts focus away from Molly’s lone journey, it suddenly and without warning succumbs to one of the most problematic troupes of the genre. After this unpleasantness, the whole film suddenly shifts gears into a completely different tone. I understand the shift was to add a level of depth to what we had previously perceived as our antagonist, but this development comes at the expense of our main character, Molly. What was once a story about one very flawed woman’s quest for survival, completely changes to what I think is supposed to be a buddy picture. Without giving too much away, but still giving credit to where credit is due, I can safely say that when this movie is about Molly having to survive the elements and outmaneuver a very determined zombie, it is extremely compelling, in a way I haven’t seen in zombie media in quite some time. However, the second other people enter the picture, the illusion that had kept me spellbound for the first half was altogether shattered, and the movie quickly became tired and tonally confused. The first half of this film is an excellent one-woman show, and while the second half isn’t terrible per say, the shift in the story is so jarring that it’s hard not to be disappointed with It in comparison to what came before it. It’s a film that starts off with a clear vision, but once it hits the half way point, it couldn’t seem like it could decide what it wanted to be. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re looking for a little originality in the genre, but don’t expect that the film will be able to live up to the incredible momentum built up in the first half. Much like a runner going through the desert without enough water, the movie starts off with a strong good pace, but quickly succumbs to the elements, and it doesn’t take long for it to trip and fall flat into the dirt.
IT STAINS THE SANDS RED is now available on DVD and BluRay on Amazon.com!
What did you think of the movie? Did you think the second half managed to keep up the pace with the first? What other horror movies are you excited to catch this month? Be sure to let us know @TheMovieChickk!