IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (Colin Minihan). 92 minutes. Opens Friday (September 15). See listing. Rating: NNN
In an era of peak zombie, it’s rare to find a variation on horror’s current favourite sub-genre that feels fresh and intriguing. It Stains The Sands Red manages that, even if it can’t sustain that freshness all the way to the end.
Colin Minihan’s feature – co-written with frequent collaborator Stuart Ortiz – takes a very narrow view of the undead apocalypse, focusing exclusively on a dancer (Brittany Allen) who flees Las Vegas to wind up walking 36 miles across the Nevada desert to a remote airstrip.
That’s a bad situation on its own, but she’s also being pursued by a single ghoul (Juan Riedinger) who isn’t affected by heat, thirst or exhaustion – all of which are very real problems for a 20-something woman walking on sand in unpractical platform heels.
Adding the slow-boil undertone of It Follows changes the chemistry of the usual walking-dead elements, and Allen (who starred in Minihan and Ortiz’s Extraterrestrial) makes a great hero, shifting from terror to exhaustion to annoyance to resolve over the course of her long, long hike.
In fact, the first hour of the film is so effective that it’s a little frustrating to watch the movie stumble in its second half, as Minihan and Ortiz try to complicate the story and wind up trapping themselves in the formulaic zombie narrative they’d previously avoided.
It still plays, but it feels a little less revolutionary.