It Stains the Sands Red [Celluloid Hero]
It Stains the Sands Red (2016)
I've talked a lot about when society would reach "peak zombie" - when we finally give up on The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, iZombie, the rom-com-zombies, the spoofs...eventually it has to end, right? I trashed "Zombie Honeymoon", but that was just a cheap indie movie shot in New Jersey - "It Stains the Sands Red" seemed to have actual ambition, but failed spectacularly.
Of all the zombie movies I've watched, I don't remember any that took place in a desert. ("Fear the Walking Dead" has made the trek from Los Angeles to Mexico and into the American southwest, but this is the first movie that I can recall). It was an interesting idea, and it lent itself to some incredible cinematography - sweeping panoramic shots, beautiful isolated drone work, just some really beautiful shots. However, the beauty ended there.
A Las Vegas bimbo and her wannabe-thug boyfriend are speeding down the highway, escaping the city with the hopes of making it to an airfield about 30 miles away. They're forced to pull over, and a lone zombie sets upon them. They think it gives up on them as night falls, but in the pitch dark of the desert night, the boyfriend succumbs to a sneak attack. Unable to remove the car from a ditch, the girlfriend sets out on foot. This was a solid concept - normally zombie movies feature a character who just so happens to have experience with guns or survival or something, but this is just some mediocre skank in leopard tights and high heel boots.
Zombie movies are always pushed forward by dumb decisions. Whether it's a person walking outside without a weapon to "check out that noise", or inviting a stranger into the safehouse, or not killing an enemy (alive or undead) when the chance arises, there are always stupid character decisions. "IStSR" goes so far beyond dumb decisions, I actually couldn't tell if it was supposed to be a satire of the typical Hollywood blonde or what.
It's really hard to enjoy a movie when the only character, the lead, the protagonist, is so wholly unlikable. You just saw your boyfriend get eaten by a zombie, and you think yelling at it and telling it to leave you alone might work? I get the idea that wandering through the desert under a blazing sun would mess with someone's psyche, but at what point would your survival instinct shut down and lead you to talking to the zombie, personifying it, and actually protecting it? It hurt me just to type that. A tacked-on subplot about having to give up her son was just eye-rolling, and ends up leading to even more ridiculous plot lines. Add in the cliche "humans should be feared more than zombies" moment and an absolutely unnecessarily graphic rape scene, this was just bad.
While I liked the idea of a more isolated style of zombie movie, and liked the beautiful desert scenery, the failures in character, in plot, and even in makeup (I've seen more "realistic" zombies at the ZombieWalk in Asbury (yes, I know "realistic zombie" is an oxymoron, but my point is that the zombie in this movie looked more amateurish than some dudes wandering around a boardwalk)) just make this a pile of junk.
[Celluloid Hero] gives "It Stains the Sands Red" a 2 out of 10.