Friday, July 10, 2009

Red Sands

In Afghanistan, a small group of soldiers on their way to man a house used as a watch station stops at a shrine carved into the side of a mountain. The shrine is a bas-relief of a woman, and one of the soldiers destroys it by using it for target practice, a la the Sphinx. Unbeknownst to them, the figure was imprisoning an ancient demon called a Djinn (genie), which follows them to their camp, and infiltrates their dreams, forcing them to turn on each other. (The movie opened with the sole survivor of the mission being debriefed)

Red Sands was made by the same team which produced 2004’s Dead Birds, which in my opinion is one of the more effective independent horror films. As with the first movie, effective use is made of camera angles, tracking shots, and the isolation of the locale to create a spooky mood. The harsh terrain, with its strong winds and sandstorms is used to great effect. The cast, which includes Shane West (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Leonard Roberts (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), J. K. Simmons (Spider-Man), Callum Blue (Dead Like Me) and Aldis Hodge (Friday Night Lights) is first-rate, and the actors handle their characters’ gradual disintegration well.

The movie had a reported budget of $1,500,000, and it shows in most of the CGI shots. The Djinn in motion looks like it came from a mid-90s video game, and the filmmakers admit in their commentary there were a number of shots they wanted but couldn’t afford to get. As a result, some horror fans will find it short on gore and big set pieces. It is also a bit of a slow set-up style movie.

For those who don’t look for dismemberment a minute, however, the movie has a lot to offer. It takes its time, allowing us to know the characters before bad things happen to them, which makes it more meaningful. There is a real feeling of dread to be found. If you enjoyed Dead Birds, I’d recommend this one, too.


The Doctor said...

I've been wondering about this one. So how jarring are the bad sfx? For example, I found myself enjoying Shadow Puppets, but the big black cloud with cartoon eyes drawn on it near the end was a bit much to take!

KentAllard said...

The more subtle effects - when a seemingly human character suddenly has a demonic, fanged mouth, for example - aren't too bad. It's when the Djinn is seen in its "true" form it looks hokey. This is a small part of the movie, however, so it doesn't detract that much.

Matt Cowan said...

Sounds like one that I should give a shot on my Blockbuster Online que. Thanks for the review.


KentAllard said...

It won't be for eveyone's taste, but I think it took its time and built the mood well.