The Sand (2015)
"The beach is killer"
After an all-night beach party, a group of teenagers awaken to find that everyone else has disappeared. It turns out that some kind of creature has appeared beneath the sand and is devouring anyone and anything that sets foot upon the beach. Trapped on the beach, the group must find a way to escape without touching the sand.
Straight from hearing the synopsis of The Sand in its pre-release promotion, I immediately thought back to 1980’s Blood Beach, a feeble Jaws clone which featured an underground monster that sucked people into the sand. Blood Beach did have a decent premise, even if it was a load of rubbish, and it’s a premise which Tremors, particularly the first one, did very well in picking up the mantle from in later years. With years of rather pointless Tremors sequels diluting the initial idea to the point of self-parody, the baton has been passed across The Sand to try and fly the flag of underground monsters, doing a fair job whilst it’s at it with it's 'the floor is lava' approach.
However, despite the similarity in the nature of the ‘being swallowed into the ground’ monster, The Sand ends up being one of those horror films where a group of people become trapped somewhere and spend the majority of the running time trying to escape from a monster without dying. I can think of the likes of Rogue, Black Water or Beneath where characters become trapped by some deadly creature and devise a load of crazy schemes to get themselves to safety, no doubt leading to the deaths of one or more of the characters in the process. Unfortunately, this type of film means that the characters are stuck in the same location for a lot of the running time. So the success of The Sand relies upon the writer’s ability to come up with ingenious ways to keep them stranded – after all, it’d be a rubbish film if the characters just sat and waited for help to come along - and they do a decent job at first, playing on usual contrivances such as a lack of mobile phones (they're all in the boot of the car) and the car not starting. However, writers Alex Greenfield and Ben Powell quickly run out of ways to keep things interesting and The Sand does begin to overstay its welcome rather earlier than you’d have liked.
Thankfully, The Sand doesn’t waste any time getting down to business and within the first ten minutes, the set-up is complete, characters are already being killed off and little time is wasted getting down to the good stuff. The set-up is treated seriously and, though the characters are all too quick in assuming that there is a monster in the sand, the threat is established early on and maintained throughout the running time. There’s not a great deal of tension or suspense during some of the scenes of the characters trying to come up with different ways to escape the sand but at least they come to a messy end when it goes wrong. The usual improvised attempts to escape the perilous situation occur and though it's obvious no one will get off the beach until late in the film, it can still be nerve-wracking watching the characters undertake some of the attempts. After all, we know early on exactly what fate awaits them and it isn't pretty.
The Sand’s reliance on CGI for its special effects is a bit disappointing given that the way the creature kills its victims would have been easily replicated using practical effects and made to look far more convincing. Still, the effects (particularly the memorable first kill) are decent enough for what they need to do and will actually get you second-glancing at the sand the next time you’re at the coast. Though the prologue at the party promises a massive body count, it’s a pity that most of these partygoers have already been killed off by the time the real action starts. However there are still enough victims to feed to the sand throughout the film. The monster is unique and is kept off-screen for the majority of the running time but in all honesty – it doesn’t need to be fully in your face. Just the thought of being sucked into the sand and seeing how some of the characters die is enough to leave the monster’s design to your imagination. Sadly as the kills become more elaborate and the monster shows itself more and more, the effects begin to cheapen and really look out of place. The simple, early effects worked far better because the audience does most of the hard work in imagining the rest.
The picture-perfect cast of women have clearly been cast for their looks and their ability to fill out bikinis and tiny shorts. Lead actress Brooke Butler is pretty, though her acting leaves a lot to be desired, and the same goes for the other actresses. They’re not going to win any awards for their performances but they’re not overly terrible. Cleo Berry is not only the token black guy, he’s the token comic relief and the token fat man so expect him to get a tough ride at the hands of the script. He spends the majority of the film wedged into a barrel with a crude penis drawn onto his face in black pen. There is an awful cameo from Jamie Kennedy, whose beach patrol character seems to have walked in off the set of a Spring Break frat comedy rather than a film which is attempting serious horror. At the end of the day, they’re all just one-dimensional characters waiting to be eaten, devoid of any real personalities or defining qualities save for the size of their chests (and that goes for both the women and men). Despite the script’s attempts to put forward a love triangle, there’s no real drama between the characters.
The Sand is fairly decent for what it is. Don’t expect the wheel to be reinvented. Don’t expect to be blown away with the next big thing. Just expect an entertaining timewaster which plays itself seriously, features some decent (if too CGI-heavy) gore moments and a unique monster and set-up which hasn’t been done to death like killer sharks or gigantic snakes.
Director(s): Isaac Gabaeff
Actor(s): Brooke Butler, Cleo Berry, Dean Geyer, Meagan Holder, Mitchell Musso
Duration: 84 mins