Originally published on The National Student on 26/10/15.
Scrabbling for dark laughs like something straight out of the 80s, Isaac Gabaeff’s debut is a crowd-pleasing creature-feature, but one which doesn’t connect the dots as well as it should.
The Sand begins and ends with its killer premise: a group of severely hungover teens wake up the night after a beach-party to find that the sand itself (or perhaps a creature living within it) has begun to casually consume their drunk friends whilst they slept.
Trapped in a lifeguard tower, a convertible, a picnic bench and a hollowed-out bin respectively, the troubled party-goers attempt to find a way to escape their new and ongoing nightmare, but soon find that not touching the sand on a beach is easier said than done.
If you thought you’d seen it all before, think again – because Gabaeff’s film definitely wins points for originality. It’s a set-up so bizarre and weirdly funny that the whole first act of the film seems to be powered by the novelty of it alone.
In fact, the bare-bones of it – a slasher-come-survival tale set entirely in one location – keeps things incredibly fresh early on, and allows the humour to do its bit rather well, as the violence ticks along nicely. But then, unsurprisingly, The Sand’s narrative begins to run out of steam pretty quickly and this supposed innovation crumbles into pretty much nothing.
There’s only so many ways you can be entertained by a ditzy American teenager being eaten alive by sand worms, and with very, very little characterisation (to the point where even names are a little blurry) it’s impossible to care at all for anyone involved in the predicament.
As expected, the teens begin to gradually attempt different escape options, ranging from shouting loudly at each other, to laying down surf boards, and again rather predictably, almost none of them succeed and most lead to some sort of partially violent death. The problem here is that the deaths themselves stop being tense or horrifying or even funny fairly quickly as well, as they’re all pretty much the same in their presentation.
It’s understandable that Gabaeff angled for digital effects here considering the film’s insanely lean budget, but there’s no excuse for the early Playstation-level graphics that make for some severely dull action sequences, constantly undermining any sense of real enjoyment, particularly during the sadly underspent finale.
Not to mention the dozens of random birds and assorted wildlife painted into the background for no real reason. At times it’s even impossible to tell what the effect was actually supposed to be showing; there’s no real texture to any of it and thus, no real danger either.
It’s a shame because at it’s core, The Sand is a loud and brash monster movie that wants to be tonnes of fun, it’s just constantly let down by the fact that its cast of characters are almost entirely faceless, its jokes are incredibly one-note, and its effects are Syfy-channel level abysmal.
There is some fun to be had here, but barely any of it seems to be intentional.
The Sand (2015), directed by Isaac Gabaeff, is out now in the UK and can be found through VOD.