It Stains the Sands Red
Director: Colin Minihan
Stars: Brittany Allen, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
There are a million zombie movies out there, or so it seems. It was so bad just a few years ago I would start every such review with “another zombie film…oh goodie.” And things were bad. The number of uninspired, low-budget flicks looking to cash in on a fad were legion. Thankfully that flood has now become a trickle…sort of. And today when a zombie flick comes out, more times than not it’s trying something new, almost as if trying to earn its right to exist. So does this latest example of cavorting corpse cinema get the bloody, gnawed thumbs up or down? Well, I hope you brought your comfy walking shoes because we’re going to find out.
It’s the zombie apocalypse and everyone is fleeing Las Vegas as the undead horde invades. Molly, a druggie chick who’s dressed as a stripper, and her thug, gun-toting boyfriend are in a car, speeding through the empty desert, heading to a little airfield to hopefully fly away to safety. But early on their car gets stuck, the boyfriend gets eaten, and Molly is on the run from a zombie. Yes, a (as in one) zombie. This is about as minimalist as you can get in a zombie flick: one woman, one zombie, one desert. Yes, there are a few other characters and locations that come and go, but this movie is at its best when it’s at its most stripped down and basic.
This is a wonderful idea. Molly is human, so she can easily outpace the slow, shambling zombie. The zombie is undead so it never tires and never has to stop. So the woman will get ahead, but then have to stop to eat, drink, take a breather, use the bathroom, or just sleep. The zombie does none of those things, so in the end it catches up. Yes, it’s like the classic tortoise and hare story but with a zombie twist. Because this scenario is wisely set in the desert, there’s not much Molly can fight back with, nowhere to hide, no one to help her, and the scorching heat during the day and the freezing cold at night are also pitted against her while Mr. Zombie feels none of that.
Eventually Molly and the zombie, whom she begins to call Smalls, start to form a weird relationship and the story starts to veer more broadly into comedy. The last quarter of the film switches things up as new people (both living and undead) are added to the mix, and overall I think this weakens the story bit, but the sum of all the parts is still very strong and the movie is still very enjoyable. One thing of note must be pointed out and that’s the cinematography. This movie looks good. Damn good. The wide-open nothingness of the desert adds an eerie beauty that reminded me of the equally well-shot The Dead from 2010.
On to the extras that Dark Sky Films included with this new Blu-ray release. There is a short, behind-the-scenes featurette that is ten and a half minutes long, and another one that focuses on the set, and it runs for three and a half minutes. The ever-present trailer is present and accounted for. And that’s it, which is surprising for a new movie I was expecting more and there is really no reason for there not to be.
It Stains the Sands Red is a great new take on the tired, old zombie genre. The fact that the cinematography is so good is just the cherry on the sundae of this well-made movie. So despite the rather lackluster Blu-ray release in regards to extras, I can still highly recommend this one for the movie alone. To see what can be done with a modest budget and a simple plot but with loads of talent, give this one a try.