It Stains the Sand Red (2017)

Colin Minihan’s “It Stains the Sand Red” is a movie that only has about an hour’s worth of story for its premise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a neat and interesting idea for a zombie movie, but one that runs out of steam by the time the second act is introduced. You can literally see the wheels falling off mid-way, and what should have been the end, feels a lot like a ton of filler that belongs to another movie altogether. As with all zombie movies from indie filmmakers, there are a ton of George Romero nods and winks, and they’re a mixed bag. Some of them are neat, like the opening of the film, which is an homage to the opening of “Night,” while some induce eye rolls a la the newspaper with the headline “The Dead Walk” dangling from a police vehicle.

Set during the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, a troubled woman and drug abuser from Las Vegas named Molly is traveling on the road with her boyfriend. When the pair are stranded, they’re approached by a haggard man who turns out to be a zombie. After failing to put him down, Molly is now alone and forced to retreat in to the desert. But things aren’t as easy as she thinks, as the zombie insists on following her and can smell her scent now that she’s menstruating. Realizing the zombie doesn’t need to eat, sleep, or rest, she has to figure out how to outdo and outwit him, or die. I thought “It Stains the Sand Red” was cause for a very compelling and interesting horror drama about a woman testing her will to live against a relentless zombie.

Director Minihan certainly sets us up for a scary character study where Molly has failed to live the life she wants, as she’s addicted to drugs and suffers memories from a terrible past. She’s then faced with someone who probably lived more than she ever has, and might just inspire her to find a reason to keep going. Minihan has such a window for insight about life, regrets, and the fragility of civilization, but “It Stains the Sand Red” dives head first in to schlock by the last half hour. By the time the second half rolls around, the movie swerves through various directions of the narrative that it feels like it’s dragging its feet. After a vicious sand storm, the movie literally changes its tone in to schlocky bit Stockholm Syndrome, as well as a glimpse in to the psychology of the zombie virus.

The problem is we’ve only seen one zombie for a majority of the movie so studying said virus is pointless and feels so much like filler. Along with that, there’s a pointless rape scene, a goofy confrontation with a coked up drug dealer in an airport, and the finale, which just felt so hackneyed and poorly conceived. Writers Stuart Ortiz and Minihan are obviously incapable of finding a satisfying climax, thus the movie simply ends, and that’s that. “It Stains the Sand Red” has seeds for a great horror drama, but it could stand a ten minute trimming, and a new climax. As it is, it’s a middling, and forgettable horror diversion that fails to re-invent the wheel.

Now in select theaters and on VOD from Dark Sky Films.