We’ve all seen the same zombie film time and again: Zombies rise and humans fight to survive. Adding a twist to that hackneyed platform has been the catalyst for quality screenwriters and filmmakers. Co-writers Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz have achieved just that with It Stains the Sands Red.
Directed by Minihan, the story features the engaging Brittany Allen as Molly, who must cross the desert to a small airport. But it’s the zombie apocalypse, and she must trek on foot – with a relentless walker on her heels.
Brittany Allen owns It Stains the Sands Red as her journey takes her from a self-centered soul of questionable character to a woman who endures a transformation into something better. Surviving on cocaine, cigarettes, and some food, loud mouth Molly soldiers on through the desert heat to get to “point B.”
Minihan and Stuart created an intimate tail of self-discovery in It Stains the Sands Red without the pretentious elements that usually cloud existential fare. When Molly’s drugs run out, she thinks back to the son she had left to another family, and her goal is no longer about finding the airport for some criminal enterprise, but to rescue her son and become the mother she never had been. Minihan and Stuart accomplish this transition without sentimentality or exaggeration, which only makes audiences root for Molly even more.
It’s not that we despise Molly from the beginning, but she makes it hard to like her. And Brittany Allen goes through an emotional ringer to take her character to a more mature and determined level. This all begins when she finds herself abandoned in the desert. She doesn’t cry or whine because she’s already survived a hard, drug addled life. Instead, we learn right away that Molly’s smart and can fend for herself in a barren land. This intelligence hints that she’s more than her addictions.
In It Stains the Sands Red, Molly isn’t just a “final girl” on a mission, but she’s the only woman in the film. Yes, the adoptive mother of her son does appear in a couple of flashbacks, but this is only to show the life Molly imagines her son enjoying. Otherwise, this is a female adventure of mind, body, and spirit, with an undead antagonist that keeps on coming.
One can view the zombie she calls “Smalls” (Juan Riedinger) for “small balls,” as a man who won’t take no for answer and stalks the woman who refuses him. But when Molly falls victim to some of the male souls she encounters, Smalls steps up in unexpected ways. It is this scene where Minihan and his vision, and tenacity for detail, shines through in a most unsettling way, and some may find it difficult to get this portion of the movie out of their heads.
Clayton Moore’s cinematography captures both the intimacy of Molly’s quest as well as the vastness of the desert – her “aloneness.” She’s walking across her own relentless Hell, and as Molly gets in touch with herself, providing her with an internal beauty she once lacked, her exterior beauty fries under the grueling sun. Molly doesn’t care, however, because she’s found what makes her beautiful: character.
Blitz//Berlin provide the music for It Stains the Sands Red, that adds punctuation and poignancy to some scenes while allowing others to breathe. They help tell Molly’s story without getting in the way.
Minihan and Stuart created a strong piece of zombie fare with subtle execution, and without Brittany Allen thriving in the lead role, this low-budget pursuit may have fallen flat. Yet the actress keeps us immersed in the story due to her emotional range and spirit, making It Stains the Sands Red a worthwhile film for “Women in Horror Month” and beyond…
The Plot Sickens: Also for “Women in Horror Month,” take a look at Billy Crash’s review of Last Girl Standing!
Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk)
He loves great, in-depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, IMDb, Amazon, Behance, YouTube, Instagram, and Google+.
(Photo of It Stains the Sands Red from Film Worthy.)