It Stains the Sands Red – LA Film Festival Review

It Stains the Sands Red - Title Logo

Zombies have had a resurgence within the past couple of years. This is due, mostly, to the mega-popularity of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. However, the zombie subgenre hasn’t really given us anything new. It may be ironic to say but audiences want something fresh out of their zombies. Last year, we saw the fantastic arrivals of Train to Busan and The Girl With All the Gifts. These zombie films took this subgenre into exciting new territories. But does this trend continue with It Stains the Sands Red or does the film bring the film back to mediocrity?

Fortunately, It Stains the Sands Red is a refreshing new zombie film that is the perfect antithesis to “The Walking Dead”. It’s smart, funny, scary, and oh so entertaining.

It Stains the Sands Red follows Molly, a Las Vegas stripper who finds herself stranded in the desert during the zombie apocalypse. To survive, she must cross the desert to a safe location while a determined and ravenous zombie is on her tail.

It Stains the Sands Red is the perfect antithesis to “The Walking Dead”.

Although It Stains the Sands Red seems like a standard zombie film, it eventually develops into something else entirely. It’s unexpected but it’s original and quite a lot of fun. Writers Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz infuses the film with the kind of comedy that’s found in Shaun of the Dead. Not to mention, Minihan and Ortiz twists some of the zombie tropes that we’ve become accustomed to. As much as conventional wisdom makes us believe that “Smalls” is the villain, Stains turns this idea upside down. He is an undead creature that scares us, makes us laugh, and has us pitying him at the end. One would even argue that he is the heart and soul of the entire film. In other words, when you think “Smalls” is going be like Cujo, it turns out that he’s Benji instead.

It just goes to show you that you don’t need a big budget to create a compelling film. The film is minimalistic and definitely has that indie flavor. But what makes Stains so compelling is that it frequently switches from one genre to another. This fusion of genres keeps things continually fresh. Minihan does a great job seamlessly transitioning from something hilarious to something horrifying. Without this combination, the film could’ve ended up being incredibly dull or cheesy. In addition, the cinematography is great. Minihan and Clayton Moore is able to beautifully capture the arid sweeping landscapes of Nevada. The creature make-up department did a great job as well. Some of the zombie and gore effects in Stains were well done.

Yet since this is an indie film, you should realize that there are misses to some of the special effects. The CGI compositing on some scenes is a bit poor. It kind of took me away from the grounded and minimalistic feel to the film. There’s also an issue with the film’s final act because it feels rushed and tacked on.

It Stains the Sands Red - Merwin Mondesir

The film is unexpected but it’s original and quite a lot of fun.

Brittany Allen is absolutely incredible in the film. She metaphorically carries the entire film on her back and runs with it. Not surprising since 90% of the film is simply Molly bantering to an undead “Smalls”. She’s is able to display an amalgam of emotions and layers to her seemingly resourceful character. It’s a wonderful performance from start to finish.

As I said before, one can argue that “Smalls” is the heart and soul of the film. And with good reason, because Juan Riedinger did a phenomenal job as “Smalls”. While his only lines are moans and groans, his physicality and his facial expressions say a lot.

Overall, It Stains the Sands Red is a unique, thrilling, and hilarious zombie film. Minihan’s minimalistic approach and Allen’s wonderful performance makes for one successful combination. I came into this without knowing anything about the film. I’m glad I did because the film was a genuine surprise. It’s original films like this that keep the zombie genre from falling into obscurity.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

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