New Horror Releases: It Stains the Sands Red (2017) - Reviewed

Within minutes of its disquieting introduction, Colin Minihan's dust choked thriller, It Stains the Sands Red sets up an intriguing premise that for the most part, breaks faith with the tired conventions of survival horror films. There is no group of ragtag survivors that includes an inevitable selfish traitor. The film's foul-mouthed heroine is not imprisoned behind four conveniently fortified walls with ample weaponry. More importantly, however, she is harried not by hundreds of the walking dead. This is a one on one fight. 

Drug addled stripper Molly escapes an undead plagued Las Vegas in hopes of rendezvousing with a group of friends at a remote airstrip. After calamity strikes, she sets out on foot across the desert with dwindling supplies (and narcotics), pursued by a lone zombie. Minihan's adroit understanding of the material is apparent from the first cocaine fueled frames. Minihan and Stuart Ortiz's script is an extended chamber piece that masquerades as a horror film. While there is violence throughout, the bulk of the narrative is centered on Molly's psychological battle with herself. Brittany Allen does a remarkable job with her performance, to the point that the absurdity of her situation matters little when compared with the expectation for what reckless action she will take next. It is rare for a film such as this to rely solely on its lead performance to carry it, and Allen is trailer park royalty, commanding her singular subject with an arsenal of profane refutations. It is during the transition to the third act that the emotional firewall begins to crumble and the story regrettably slides into predictable, but never boring scenarios that audiences have come to expect from their weekly zombie soap operas. 

Juan Riedinger supports as "Smalls", Molly’s deceased supplicant and constant pursuer. This is a hilarious, and understated performance that relies entirely on Riedinger's body work and Ryan and Megan Nicholson's outstanding makeup effects. It's hard to add anything to the appearance of the world's most famous antagonist and yet, the Nicholsons manage to capture a balance between the primal, animalistic compulsions of the dead and the distant memories of what they were in life. Clayton Moore's manic cinematography is impressive, combining a psychedelic pallet of the desert with a '90s VHS aesthetic that keeps the action fresh. Given the simple premise, everything relies on Allen's performance and the visuals, and Moore compliments his subjects by framing everything with tension wound angles and unexpected closeups to ensure the promise of violence is ever present in Molly's odyssey of blood. 

Welcome to the party pal

Available now for digital rental, It Stains the Sands Red is a unique take on a genre that didn't need another film. While it regrettably tumbles into some outlandish, yet sadly familiar concepts during the finale, everything that precedes it is worth the price of the rental. Brittany Allen's trashy camp embodiment is an outstanding performance that takes the final girl concept, rolls it up and does lines off the hood of an abandoned vehicle while the dead walk and the world burns around it.

Share this review.

-Kyle Jonathan