Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Colin Minihan
Written by: Colin Minihan & Stuart Oritz
Starring: Brittany Allen, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir, Kristopher Higgins, Andrew Supanz, Nico David & Michael Filipowich
In a world that’s oversaturated with repetitive zombie stories, creators have to do something original or inspired to make their undead flesh-eating monster stories stick out. Things like TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, and THE LAST OF US (a video game, but it’s still a great zombie story) stick out because they have genuinely good writing, interesting characters, and put fresh spins on a long-(un)dead subgenre. While this indie flick isn’t on the same level of those previous three zombie stories that I mentioned, Colin Minihan’s indie flick IT STAINS THE SANDS RED easily surpassed my expectations. This is an entertaining zombie flick that keeps the suspense high, takes unique turns that I didn’t see coming, and packs a fair share of emotion.
The zombie apocalypse has hit Las Vegas and residents are frantically trying to escape the madness. Molly (Brittany Allen) is a stripper who enjoys wholesome activities like: snorting cocaine, being a neglectful mother towards her estranged child, and lap dancing for her scumbag dealer/boyfriend. After Molly’s car breaks down and her boyfriend turns out to be a terrible shot with a handgun, she finds herself stranded in the middle of the Nevada desert. Things go from bad to worse when Molly realizes that she has a hungry zombie, who she nicknames “Smalls,” on her tail. Also, Molly is experiencing her time of the month, so Smalls doesn’t exactly have to work hard to chase her trail. A cat-and-mouse game ensues between a stripper and a zombie in the desert. What more could you possibly ask for?
IT STAINS THE SANDS RED was clearly made on a tiny budget, as showcased by the lack of supporting characters, somewhat cheesy zombies, and a few cheap-looking post-production effects. In spite of its flaws, this film is pretty damn fun to watch and winds up being one of the better zombie flicks out there during this Halloween season. The cinematography looks remarkably crisp for its low-budget, even though the opening overhead shot of Las Vegas looked like somebody had just added smoke and fire effects onto buildings and threw static onto the city’s giant screens. The same positive qualities can be said for the film’s mostly impressive gore effects, though the film suffers from cheesy haunted house quality zombie make up.
IT STAINS THE SANDS RED works well and kept me watching because it presents a large-scale zombie apocalypse on a very small-scale story of a woman redeeming herself through sheer survival. That description may sound cheesy on the surface, but Molly is made into a pretty fantastic character thanks to Brittany Allen’s stellar performance. Allen’s character undergoes a convincing story arc from helpless junkie victim to a woman who’s taking control of her life in the zombie apocalypse. It’s quite the gratifying transformation to watch, especially as she increasingly interacts with Smalls (Juan Riedinger).
You know that a script is good when you’re rooting for a stripper on the run and also feeling sympathy towards the flesh-eating zombie that’s pursuing her. The script does a great job of evolving the relationship between these two and playing with it in smart ways. There is a distinct tonal shift about halfway through that I wasn’t expecting at all and it felt convincing in the story, as opposed to just being a forced plot point meant to skew the typical zombie tropes. I can’t get too specific because that would mean delving into spoiler territory, but you’ll understand what I mean when that moment hits.
IT STAINS THE SANDS RED isn’t the best zombie flick to come out of the 2010s (that is a toss-up between TRAIN TO BUSAN and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS), but it’s a damn fine zombie film nonetheless. This flick benefits from a strong central character, an emotional story arc, and unexpected twists on the usual zombie fare. Though things threaten to transform into a conventional zombie apocalypse story during the third act, I felt that the ending redeemed itself before the credits began to roll. If you like zombie flicks and are looking for something new in this overplayed subgenre, then IT STAINS THE SANDS RED should serve as an entertaining watch!