Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I was bitching and whining not too long ago because the last couple of horror movies I had seen had the same tired setup of a group of young adults going to party to some out of the way place with no cell phone reception, with the pain of those of flicks being getting past that way past played setup and making it past the weak and trite dialog to actually get to these young adults actually getting to the business of getting slaughtered. Now when those movies finally get to our irritating young adults dying, those movies got a little better. Ah but this movie ‘Red Sands’ is exactly the opposite. This movie has a great setup and a pretty good premise working for it, showing a lot of promise. All this movie needs to do to hit one out of the park is close out strong on the back end. It was not be my friends, sadly it just wasn’t meant to be.

It is the year 2002, dateline Afghanistan. Our film starts with a close up shot of Specialist Jeff Keller (Shane West) who is being questioned by his commanding officer (J.K. Simmons) who is informing us that Spc. Keller is the only survivor of some horrific event that occurred, with his battalion missing during a mission they were carrying out. The commander just needs to know what went down. Now I’m thinking right off the bat that this might be a narrative mistake since we know from the get go that everybody, except Keller, bites the big one. We probably figured that was going to happen anyway considering the type of movie this is and the large number of minorities in the platoon, but it does remove some of the tension that a movie like this relies on.

Now we backtrack a couple of weeks where we sit a spell with our soldiers who are on some kind of recon mission in the middle of a nowhere desert. Somehow they stumble upon this odd statue that our resident Middle East expert Spc. Wilcox (Callum Blue) informs us is a Djinn, or genie so to speak. Cool, so our redneck in residence Pvt. Davies (Brendan Miller) shoots it and breaks it all up in pieces. In retrospect that was bad move.

It’s not soon after this that the weird stuff starts happening. Point man for our mission, Staff Sgt. Houston (Leonard Roberts) starts tripping out paranoia style almost from moment they arrived at their little shack hideout. Keller is having the weirdest dreams, other soldiers are seeing dead people they’ve killed during this little conflict and of course we should mention that most of this weirdness coincides with the out of nowhere appearance of a very strange but hot Afghani woman (Mercedes Masohn).

We know already that pretty much everybody dies with the only question remaining is how did they die. This is where a movie that started with some pop ended with a fizzle.

I really did like the way that director Alex Turner setup his movie as the setting was fairly unique for a horror movie, the concept was different and it was highlighted by a capable cast of familiar actors with the only one of these actors whose work I wasn’t familiar with being Aldis Hodge in the role of Spc. Anderson, and who was probably the best of a good lot. The narrative seemed to be building at a reasonable arc, then we introduced this strange Afghani woman who heightened the tension a bit… and it kept building… and it kept building… until… well… not much. You see the first casualty doesn’t occur until like a good hour into this ninety minute movie and before that event took place my patience for something to happen was already running a little thin. When the first cat finally bites it I’m thinking the last act of this movie is about to be off the chain but the tension never really rose above the ‘building’ state, even when more of our soldiers started dying off. Another reason this is disappointing is because some of the horror imagery, at least what little there was of it, is pretty good but instead of making this a monster movie, this turned into more of a psychological thriller, more or less, with the problem being there wasn’t enough electricity in the pacing of the movie to be all that thrilling. It also didn’t help that there wasn’t much clarification in what this monster, one who rarely made its actual presence felt, was up to in the first place. It seemed to me it could’ve picked them off one by one or just slaughtered them all at the same time as opposed to those stupid ass mind games it was playing. I need some slaughter over here or something.

‘Red Sands’ really looked liked it was shaping up to be a pretty damn good little monster movie, but unfortunately it seemed that our filmmakers over thought the concept a bit. I like a deep psychological thriller as much as the next guy, but when you give me a shape shifting monster with razors for teeth I’m thinking we need that monster to engage us with some mindless murdering mayhem at sometime in this movie. That’s not too much to ask for is it?

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