Film review: Red Sands

July 20, 2009 by
Filed under: Film reviews 

redsands2dRed Sands is Alex Turner’s follow-up to the undeniably eerie Dead Birds, an American civil war period piece, involving a squad of soldiers coming across a terrifying house situated in a field of corn, haunted by vaguely Lovecraftian horrors. In Red Sands Turner takes the same set-up and updates it to Afghanistan, placing a unit of American soldiers in an isolated location and spooking them out with a series of strange phenomena and bloody deaths; except, this time it doesn’t work.

Charged with seizing and then monitoring an important road the soldiers get lost due to some random artillery fire, come across some ruins and out of boredom (regardless of the fact they’ve just been attacked) set about shooting up the statues carved in the sides of the red sandstone hills. This act of ignorance unleashes a Djinn which then takes its revenge on the soldiers.  We know it’s a Djinn because there’s a plaque in the stone that says so.

The problem with Red Sands is that at the very beginning of the film you are shown who survives, and because you also know what’s shape-shifting and taking on the appearance of those it kills, causing hallucinations and generally making their stay in a strangely abandoned stone house uncomfortable (especially as the radio is unusable and the jeep’s engine is mysteriously ripped out) there’s absolutely no intrigue, suspense or surprise to the experience.

The shallow and clichéd characters of the soldiers are played by the numbers (why does every radio operator have glasses, and be literately nerdy?) The shadowy interior setting of the house is way too dark to see any detail; and there is a tired re-use of ideas from Dead Birds – a lot of the decent effects are dark, hollow eyes and wide gaping mouths of those victims sucked dry by the Djinn; admittedly they are scary the first time around, but if you’ve seen them once…

Ultimately, and unfortunately because I really wanted to like it, Red Sands is a disappointing and predictable film.

[This review was originally published in the Spring 09 edition of Prism, the Newsletter of the British Fantasy Society]


One Comment on Film review: Red Sands

  1. Leigh on Wed, 29th Jul 2009 12:48 am
  2. Totally agree mate. Was so looking forward to it as I adore Dead Birds. Saw this a few weeks ago and was very disappointed. The grunts are portrayed with stereotypical shallowness and stupidity (and technically there are a lot of issues here as far as kit is concerned); the setting looks about as much like Afghan as my front room does; the plot is just shot full of inconsistencies and the scares…meh… Decent enough concept but fatally flawed.

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