After an all-night graduation beach party, a group of hung-over twenty-somethings awake to a beating sun, and a seemingly carnivorous beach that devours anything with a heartbeat that touches the sand.
There always has been and always will be so much appreciation for a large majority of successful B-thru-Z creature features of the ’70s and ’80s, whether they are so good they’re great or so bad they’re awesome. Personally I am in my element of late as it’s so great to see such a potent return to said style of filmmaking with some top-drawer talent stunning the festival circuit such as Benni Diez with Stung or Chad Archibald with Bite, to name just a couple. The premise of director Isaac Gabaeff’s The Sand had so much promise – in essence a combination of two of my all-time favourites, “The Raft” segment in Creepshow 2 and Tremors. My love for both of the aforementioned films goes beyond words so you can imagine the kind of expectations I had going into this one. Regrettably, high hopes turned to low slopes as the promising plot rapidly descended into a hodgepodge of spurious dialogue, gawky performances and tawdry CGI effects resulting in a decidedly doleful cinematic experience.
Things do kick off in a novel and fun manner, blending camcorder footage of the beach party with more sinister stylistic shots of the environment to create a sense of tension but, once you get past that, everything spirals downhill from thereon in.
The film’s major downfall is its blend of nauseating performances and dire dialogue. No one’s asking for award-winning performances in a film of this ilk but not one iota of it came across as either authentic or funny. Everything felt outrageously stilted and most attempts at humour fell flat on their face in the sand like most of the film’s protagonists. The comedy is just plain forced and crammed with asinine and uninspired one-liners thrown in for good measure which ultimately saps any kind of likeability out of the characters. A cameo in the form of Jamie Kennedy as Beach Patrol Alex was the only real saving grace worthy of mention. I’m not sure if this was a tip of the hat to his recent role in the latest Tremors outing (a far superior creature feature whilst we’re on the subject) but it beats me as to why he would even consider having anything to do with this one.
When it comes to the special effects the less said the better. Provided by the SFX team Justice FX, the CGI-heavy effects turn The Sand into the best campaign AGAINST using computer effects I have seen in a good while. Considering the effects on show it would have made so much more sense to have used more camera trickery and to have kept the creature and blood effects to a minimum as the “more is less” technique can often be so much more effective, particularly when budgets are tight. Instead, the audience is “treated” to some shoddier than shoddy SyFy channelesque effects that just obliterate any form of believability or tension.
What can be said in The Sand’s favour is that I truly hope Vincent Gillioz goes places as he really deserves to. His score was so well orchestrated and oftentimes brought the original Jaws soundtrack to mind.
Ultimately, The Sand is sadly a hokily written love letter to the ’70s and ’80s. Whilst the film’s objectives may have been sound on paper the filmmakers show no regard for the bare essentials: refined dialogue, sharp humour and up-to-snuff effects. If you are harbouring an appetite for a modern B-movie done right then go for something like Benni Diez’ Stung or Toby Wilkins’ Splinter because, whilst The Sand had the best of intentions in providing a delectable horror throwback, this is one film destined to get washed away with the tide…
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)