11th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘The Sand’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Mitchel Musso, Dean Geyer, Nikki Leigh, Brooke Butler, Meagan Holder, Jamie Kennedy, Hector David Jr., Cynthia Murell, Cleo Berry, Etalvia Cashin, Adam Powell | Written by Alex Greenfield, Ben Powell | Directed by Isaac Gabaeff

the-sand-poster

After an all-night graduation beach party, a group of hung-over students wake up under blazing sun to find their numbers somewhat depleted. An enormous alien creature has burrowed down deep and anyone foolish enough to make contact with the sand finds themselves at the mercy of a sea of flesh-eating tentacles.

Can you say Blood Beach?

OK so maybe that’s not fair. After all Jeffrey Bloom’s 1980 fear-flick, despite having a similar premise – something eating people on the beach, dragging them under the sand – is world’s apart from the gory body-horror of Isaac Gabaeff’s film. Whereas that film often played for oddball humour both intentionally and unintentionally, The Sand plays things very straight. And is all the better for it. Plus Gabaeff’s movie has some INCREDIBLE gore effects, even if a lot of them are rendered in CGI. Hell, you have to love any film where a characters face is ripped off a mere 10 minutes into the story! Power Rangers fans will be in for a shock to see Hector David Jr., aka Samurai’s Green Ranger, suffer that fate…

Speaking of CGI, there are some issues with the effects, especially during a couple of the bigger, and gorier, death scenes; but it’s testament to The Sand‘s production that the low-budget nature of the effects don’t detract too much from the overall experience and, thankfully, doesn’t stop the filmmakers from actually – come the big finale – showing just what is under the sand, giant tentacles and all!

Where The Sand really does shine is in its plotting. Gabaeff and his writers, Alex Greenfield and Ben Powell, are not afraid to play with genre conventions – characters you expect will survive to the end of the movie don’t and it’s the girls, so often the eye-candy standing alongside the brave hero, that actually take charge and try to facilitate the groups escape off the sand. Even if it doesn’t all go to plan. At all.

Thankfully the cast do a fantastic job of emoting sheer terror when faced with nothing more than a pile of sand, especially Brooke Butler and Meagan Holder – whose characters not only have to overcome the animosity between them but also try and rescue the one guy that has come between them… And kudos also to Cleo Berry who manages to really make the audience empathise with his  characters plight, so much so its a shame to see him perish. Plus being stuck in a barrel for most the movie couldn’t have been easy! Berry also gets The Sand‘s most epic death scene and deservingly so, as Berry seemingly relishes the opportunity to let loose.

If the final coda is anything to go by, we haven’t seen the last of the creature under the sand and I’d happily pay to see Gabeaff and co. bring us another round of tentacle-based death and destruction, especially if (as is alluded to in The Sand‘s final shot) it’s on a much grander scale.

****½  4.5/5

The Sand has its World Premiere at Frightfest on Friday 28th August at 10.50pm in Discovery Screen 2.

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