Director: Isaac Gabaeff
Cast: Brooke Butler, Mitchel Musso, Dean Geyer, Meagan Holder, Cynthia Murell, Cleo Berry, Nikki Leigh and Jamie Kennedy
Plot: After a beach party, a group of hungover teenagers wake up and realise that there is something under the sand that is stalking them.
The most important thing to know about this movie is that it is better than it looks like from the outside. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if director Isaac Gabaeff’s plan of action was to package Sand like the usual B Movie trash, to lower expectations early on and make impressing the audience a much less daunting challenge. The promotional posters, DVD cover and premise set up a story where bikini-clad girls are ripped to shreds in the kind of way fans of the Sharknado movies will naturally flock to. The opening three minutes are a teenage party shot through the eyes of a camcorder, so the audience, for a horrible moment, thinks they have accidentally bought a found footage movie. So, while Sand is by no means a good movie, it is a better movie than you think it is going to be. Believe it or not, that has a psychological effect on how well you settle into this movie.
The plot is essentially a glorified cinematic take on ‘the floor is lava’. After a drunken party, a group of teenagers wake up, in the arms of whoever they ‘shacked’ up with and realise that they cannot touch the floor without being subjected to a horribly, painful death. There is something in the sand that is pulling them under and eating them, like some sort of conscious quicksand. The visuals are a mixed bag, in terms of how well Gabaeff pulls off his unique movie monster. On one hand, it is hard to get over the fact that he is working with a very low-budget creature. As mandatory, topless red shirt Nikki Leigh is grabbed from below, it is hard to not notice that she is just touching the beach with the palm of her hand and screaming. This is low budget thrills at its best. The gore is shocking, but done on the cheap. Sand is best suited to those viewers used to the poorly-animated digital wounds of most B Movies. On the other hand, there are moments when the actors and director really sell the fear of the moment. When a character dies, the actor really goes for it. Screaming and begging, as the sand slowly eats them, the deaths are drawn-out and bound to cause a few winces. If the animation isn’t up to par, the idea behind the monster is. It doesn’t matter how much you like the characters; when a death is that horrific, you don’t want to see anyone die. Notice how more time is put into the male characters’ deaths than the female. Someone must have decided that watching a young girl slowly ripped to shreds was just a touch too gruesome. Sand really comes alive as a brain-teaser, rather than a gore-fest. Going back to the idea that Sand is based on ‘the floor is lava’, the idea of that game is to use your head to figure out how to avoid touching the floor. Putting that in a life or death situation is surprisingly interesting. The movie gets to the meat of its story within ten minutes and becomes a drawn-out puzzle of how the main characters are going to get out of this situation. They push the boundaries of this new monster, testing theories, finding weaknesses, losing friends… as the characters fight back, the tension is in the air. It is a dream for Isaac Gabaeff who is able to squeeze great moment of tension with minimal budget. One of the best moments involves nothing more than Cynthia Murrell trying to open the boot of a car. But Sand can only go so far. This is a high standard of B Movie trash, but B Movie trash regardless. The actors are surprisingly effective, but can only do so much with paper thin characters and a plot that rarely stops to develop them. And the budget eventually runs totally dry, when the movie tries to up its ante for the ending. The finale is totally flat, panicking over how to close the movie and going for the generic B Movie option. A badly animated ‘thing’ swipes at the actors, who stand there, guessing where the final digital creature will end up being. It is lazy, done before and, finally, lives up to the shitty packaging this movie falsely promised.
Final Verdict: For a moment, Sand was looking quite promising, surprisingly grim in a camp B Movie way, but eventually budgets and ideas run out.