From the creators of the cult hit, Dead Birds, comes the psychological, horror film Red Sands, which follows the story of a group of U.S. soldiers who face a deadly supernatural force after they destroy an ancient statue. Present-day Afghanistan. As continuing battles rage in the war-torn country, a unit of U.S. soldiers are dispatched to seize and control a strategic road that runs past an abandoned stone house. En route, the soldiers discover an ancient stone statue hidden deep within an ancient ravine. Using the relic for target practice, they destroy it, unwittingly releasing a vengeful supernatural force that is about to wage a horrifying war on them in this taut, action-packed, psychological thriller.
Horror? Not quite. Psychological thriller? No. Taut and action-packed? Definitely
not. Then what is Red Sands exactly? A low budget film that tried very much to be
all of the above, but didn't make the grade.
Written by Simon Barrett and directed by Alex Turner, the film had wanted to
introduce the audience to the supernatural world of Djinns, or genies, and to do so
by putting a group of soldiers through the ordeal in Afghanistan where their
ignorance for culture brings forth a Djinn to be unleashed, wrecking havoc to their
platoon. Unfortunately, whether it be a lack of budget or finesse in execution, the
film didn't deliver on many levels, from acting, to scares, to makeup and effects,
that it seemed rather pedestrian from start to end.
Like how Korean film Guardpost began, this one too had a lone survivor Specialist
Jeff Keller (Shane West) being called by the upper brass (played by J K Simmons) to
recount what exactly happened amongst his platoon mates. But unlike the Korean
horror film, this one had a distinct lack of blood, gore, and atmospheric mood that
exemplifies every typical horror film, not that it was trying to be refreshing, but
unfortunately came across as the filmmakers' indecision on just what this film
should be focused on.
So we have plenty of shots where soldiers go on their routine patrols, only to find
themselves (and the audience) being hurled from one red herring to another, until
eventually an Arab woman (Mercedes Masohn) barges into their makeshift camp at an
abandoned house, that strange things start to happen to each and every one in the
platoon. And that includes some slow exploration into their individual fears and
past military misdeeds, capitalized by the ghoul to turn comrades into adversary.
However, you don't get to see much of that ghoul in action, and poor special effects
only cheapens its appearance. There is also a lack of background to the Djinn other
than the introductory opening titles and casual mention by one of the characters,
hence setting the stage for a downfall as the audience cannot fear what they do not
know, nor see on screen. It's one thing trying to keep it under wraps, but another
when a strong build up doesn't get created.
For local audiences, if you've seen the film Pulau Hantu, then Red Sands happen to
be very much like it. In fact, the similarities are just too close, with soldiers,
mysterious ghouls, an abandoned house, and especially both the introduction and
ending sequence which has to do with a military tribunal. If Pulau Hantu wasn't your
cup of tea, then this film would elicit a carbon copy of a response from you as
SPECIAL FEATURES :
While the movie is generally a let down, no effort is spared to ensure that the extras here meets some baseline expectations. For filmmaking buffs, you're likely to check out the Featurettes.
The first is The Screenwriters Diaries: The Making of Red Sands (20:28) which is actually directed by the writer of Red Sands, Simon Barrett. It's a novel way to present a making of through the eyes of the story writer, and it's split into 22 random short chapters each capturing a different aspect of making the film, from make up to special effects etc. The first and final shots of production were also included for keepsakes.
The other featurette is quite a waste of time. Red Sands Set Tour with Noel G (6:45) is as the title goes, with cast member Noel G. bringing you around and ad-libbing plenty of gangsta-talk passing off as commentary. Making up for that disappointment will the Commentary with Director Alex Turner and Writer Simon Barrett, where they don't lapse into the usual bland description of what's happening on screen, but provide plenty of nuggets of information to the actual production, where they have no qualms dishing out the dirt on making a low budget film (US1.5 million by their standards, some 1% of a typical Hollywood blockbuster). Wannabe filmmakers would benefit from listening to a whole host of challenges they face, and how they overcome them through compromises and innovation.
Deleted Scenes are presented in letterbox format with subtitles available. For those who want to go through everything, there's a Play All function as well. 4 scenes are included here running a total of approximately 9 minutes. Angry Pirates, Magic and World Records (3:15) contains 3 dirty jokes that won't seem out of place in any conversation when troops get transported in a convoy, as is More Blumpkin (2:25). Plenty of gore gets offered in The Goat Herder (2:10), while it's easy to understand why Let the Marines Take Care of It (0:57) got dropped in the first place.
Previews contain the usual Sony back-slapping Blu-Ray Disc is High Definition clip which autoplays when you insert the DVD into the player, as will the trailers for Anaconda: Trail of Blood (0:40) and Screamers: The Hunting (1:40). Other trailers included are same-type straight to DVD movies like The Grudge 3 (1:19), Boogeyman 3 (1:18), and The Lodger (1:10).
Nice visual transfer with a respectable the Dolby 5.1 track audio.
by Stefan Shih