The morning after a drunken beach party, a group of college students find themselves hung-over, stranded and in terrible danger.
Ah, a day at the beach. Blue skies, warm sunlight, golden sand and mortal peril… at least, that’s how things are for the handful of people who wake up to find that, if they step onto the sand, they’ll be eaten alive by a large, unidentified monster. Essentially, THE SAND is an updated, reworked TREMORS, but unfortunately similarities in plot are all the two have in common – while the 1990 classic is slick, tense and genuinely frightening, Isaac Gabaeff’s film has all the subtlety of a sandy Speedo.
The film opens promisingly, with ‘found footage’ from a mobile phone interspersed with beautiful, high-quality shots of the beach at dawn. A red plastic cup, half-buried in the sand; students pouring alcohol into each other’s mouths; footprints being washed away by the waves; the proclamation that ‘nothing leaves this beach’ as everyone’s phones are taken and placed in a bag for safekeeping. With some character set-up and a glimpse of the huge, sticky pod from which the monster later emerges, we’re taken forward again to the morning after the party and the first deaths within the group. The characters go through the usual run of emotions: shock, panic, fear, then screaming. A lot of screaming. So much screaming that I ended up starting a game of online Scrabble while I waited for someone to say or do something sensible, which happened, but not before I’d found a nice double-word score.
The plot continues as you’d expect in a horror film: the attempts at communication with the outside world, the next few deaths or injuries, the near-orgasmic reaction to a tube of sunscreen after several hours in the sun (this last from Cleo Berry’s Gilbert, who spends almost the entirety of his screen time trapped in a large metal can). Kaylee, the only woman out of three who seems able to pause her screaming long enough to examine the facts of the situation, discovers the thin, hair-like tentacles that reach up from the sand any time prey lands on it. The main subplot, a bizarre, half-cooked love triangle between Kaylee, her ex and another of the women, belly flops all over the narrative at the worst possible times.
However, THE SAND does have its moments – although it’s hard to believe in the characters’ state of peril when they’re so beautifully coiffed, made-up and tanned, and even harder to find a screenshot that doesn’t include at least one set of breasts, the nature of the creature and its increasing intelligence are enough to send a shiver up the spine. With multitudinous, thin tentacles that emerge from the sand, even before someone touches it, to wave eerily in the air as if to better sense its prey, and a sting that feels like ‘a jellyfish times a thousand’ (perhaps the only interesting thing Jonah, Kaylee’s ex, says), the monster is frightening enough to make you draw your feet up under you while watching. Even at the very end, the creature is mysterious and ominous enough to leave a long-lasting impression, unlike the film’s characters.
Marred by a clunky script and some appalling acting, the film limps through its second half, with not even Alex, the dismissive beach patrol officer, providing much in the way of a diversion. Alex is incredibly annoying, so much so that he leaves the ‘annoying adult who doesn’t listen’ trope far behind and degenerates into a misogynistic, racist caricature. So frustrating a character as to make the audience bypass humour and go straight to utter boredom, you can’t help but cheer at his inevitable end.
A lack of common sense is rife in THE SAND, from Kaylee deciding to taunt her love rival as they make their way across a tiny, makeshift bridge to Gilbert’s homage to THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. However, one of the greatest lacks of common sense is in the decision of how to shoot the film – as exemplified by THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and later films such as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and [REC], found footage such as that shown at the beginning of THE SAND can work well for an entire film. I found myself watching THE SAND and wishing that, instead of numerous, gorgeous beach vistas and artistic shots of rolling waves, I could’ve seen shaky camera footage and better special effects. There is nothing more off-putting in a horror film than realising the supposed pus and seeping bodily fluids on a victim’s torso are very likely the result of a bag of gummi bears and a cigarette lighter.
Not a film for the nit-picking horror fan, THE SAND has a lot of problems that a well-filled bikini and a burst of pepper spray can’t solve. One to watch with a group of friends, some junk food and the promise of TREMORS to follow.
THE SAND is currently available from most major VOD platforms, including Amazon, iTunes, and BlinkBox.