It Stains The Sands Red & Stretches The Premise
Review by Aaron Haughton
It Stains the Sands Red is a spin on the zombie horror genre that draws its suspense from a one-on-one chase between a woman and a lone stalking walker. Directed by Colin Minihan, who also co-wrote the script alongside Stuart Ortiz, the film proves it can do a lot with a minimal budget, but ultimately, it’s not enough to maintain interest with a stretched thin premise better suited in a shorter format.
The film follows Molly, a cliché back talking bad girl with a heart of gold and a troubled past (played by Brittany Allen), in the throes of a zombie apocalypse. Molly and her lover/pimp/dealer (their background is opaque) are hightailing it to an air stripe to leave the whole mess behind when things get, uh, messy. They encounter a lonesome zombie on the desolate Las Vegas highway who devours her companion and begins to chase Molly, tracking her by her menstrual blood (yes, that's right: menstrual blood), as she wanders through the desert.
It begins kinda campy, with some decent execution and stylistic chops, and the story doesn't beat around the bush; we're plunged into the "action" fairly quickly. The desert cinematography, at times, is very spectacular, and feels reminiscent of Gus Van Sant's earlier works My Own Private Idaho and Gerry. The premise sounds interesting on paper, but its desert chase is filled with very little to hold attention.
It mostly consists of our central character berating the lone chomper with silly monologues that aren't revealing of her character -- those are presented in short, uncompelling flashbacks. For a moment, there's room for the writer/director to potentially make a statement on the relationship between men and women, how man chase after them unrelenting, how they look at them as meat and as only something to devour, how men can be monsters. But, of course, it never reaches that type of elevated plain, and only gets more ridiculous and far fetched from there.
There are CGI scorpions and sandstorms, which are used to heighten tension, but really just speak to the level of writing where they're clearly running out of ideas on how to make a desert chase zombie film interesting. Despite the film not being comical or tense enough to really land a noteworthy impression, it is watchable up until about the midway point.
Right smack dab in the middle of this film comes a very unnecessary rape scene, which ends in bloodshed as the zombie devours the accosting male. I use the word unnecessary because such a vile act doesn't need to be included unless it services the narrative, which this scene does not. Now, if the filmmakers were going to run with the concept that men are monsters, and they were trying to make a statement on the male/female relationship, I could see the inclusion of this scene as potentially warranted, but it's only used for shock value and to include some more humans for there to be some gore. It also reinforces the claim that the writers were clearly running out of ways to make their one-on-one apocalypse chase film interesting.
And, just when you think it can't get any dumber, it does. Our heroine forges a weird relationship with her pursuer that doesn't make any sense. It's a very uninteresting and half-assed way to tie the chase to our character's weak backstory and troubled past, and it will definitely have you rolling your eyes and sighing loudly.
In the end, it's not really worth your time since it chose a limited theater and VOD distribution route, instead of approaching a streaming service like Shudder or Netflix, which would've guaranteed their film a wider audience footprint. Even then, this film belongs as a short film, no longer than 25 minutes. It may stain the sands red, but it just doesn't have the stamina or the prowess to stretch out to feature length. As long as this flick costs money, avoid it like the plague.
Rating: 1 lone zombie tugging a blowup raft full of rations in the desert outta 5.
What do you think? Did you pay money to see the film? Did it's stretched thin premise work for you? Is this stupidest film you've seen all year? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!