Director – Colin Minihan
Cast – Brittany Allen, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
It Stains the Sands Red is a film I heard some good things about throughout the year. It debuted back in July and had I realized that it came directed by one of the co-creators for the great Grave Encounters I would have viewed it much sooner. While Grave Encounters remains one of my favorite found footage films, the sophomore film from co-creator Colin Minihan didn’t do it for me. Sadly, you can also throw in It Stains the Sands Red in the disappointment bin. Don’t get me wrong. This film gives us an interesting take on the convoluted zombie sub-genre, and it gets inventive at times when it could have been stagnant. However, an unlikable lead coupled with zero scares and little tension made this a film that is far from bad, but disappoints in key moments.
As a zombie outbreak sweeps America, a troubled woman and her boyfriend travel across the Nevada desert in hopes of finding a remote airfield flying to a Mexican island. When car trouble leaves them stranded in the Nevada desert, the apocalypse catches up to them in the form of a single, relentless zombie. With her lover dead and no form of transportation, the woman is forced to endure a seemingly endless journey through the barren landscape. With a tireless member of the living dead constantly on her tail and only one day to reach the airfield, she is forced into the ultimate battle for survival against time, the elements, and that damn zombie.
It Stains the Sands Red comes written by both of the “Vicious Brothers” Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz. As I mentioned earlier, I can definitely appreciate the story adding some new spices to the mostly cliché zombie sub-genre. Typically, zombie films involve hordes of the undead chasing after a group of folks and giving us an insight into their struggles (as a group) to survive. In this case we are given one survivor and one zombie. This may sound boring at first, but I found it fascinating. To an extent it feels much like It Follows, where the protagonist can shake their pursuer for a little while, but it never stops and the lead is therefore never safe for very long.
My issues with the film lie its in story, though. To start, our lead, Molly, is as unlikable as it gets. She’s a bitch, she’s unappreciative, she’s a user, she’s a drug abuser, she’s a bad mom. She’s about as shitty of a person as one can be. Because of this, I never once cared for her or her well-being. There isn’t a whole lot of conflict with a single zombie chasing her, so there are additional elements involving other humans to serve as the conflict. These scenes can be intense and triggering for some, and even then I could not sympathize with her as much as I wanted to. For whatever reason there is a small story arch for her towards the end of the film, but by then it is too little and too late. Her lack of compassion and empathy had me lacking compassion and empathy for her. The result of that is I was therefore not immersed into the experience.
For what it is worth, Brittany Allen does a great acting job in her portrayal of Molly. It seems like the writers wanted us to hate her. That is fine. However, since she is the lead and one of only a handful of characters in the film, what is there to hold on to? Anyway, director Colin Minihan manages to do a lot with very little. I dug the look of the zombie, as well as its mannerisms. Because we (and Molly) spend almost the entire film with this zombie, nicknamed Smalls by our lead, the filmmakers eventually grant him some endearing charm. There aren’t many kills in the film, but thankfully they all come with live-action gore.
Overall, It Stains the Sands Red is a film I wanted to like, yet somehow the writers wanted me to hate on it. If you can get past an unlikable lead, who happens to engulf the entire film, then maybe you’ll dig it – but that’s unlikely.