I’m going to try and keep talk of Blood Beach (1980) to a minimum, since I’m hoping some time in the near future it’ll hit DVD and/or blu-ray here in the states and if that happens I will try my damndest to review it since memories of it are pretty potent, but seeing as until now Blood Beach occupied a niche in the horror genre all by itself, a sub-category I refer to as ‘monsters-living-under-the-beach,’ it’s going to be hard not to refer to Jeffery Blooms 80s cult creature feature.
When I first heard of The Sand my first thought instantly went to a Blood Beach remake and I even asked them on Twitter if it was, but they said something to the effect of they weren’t aware of Bloom’s movie, but now that cover art has been revealed it’s hard not think the makers are now aware and liked the Blood Beach poster so much they decided to homage it. You can clearly see the similarities.
If you a millennial genre lover I’m not sure how aware you would naturally be of Blood Beach, but if you a Gen-X one you would most certainly know of it’s existence and instantly see the similarities between it and The Sand. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all, but there were two scenes in Blood Beach that gave me the willies when I saw it on cable in 1982 and seeing as that alone has elevated it into memory movie status, any modern day filmmaker who’s decided to make a movie with the same concept and who may or may not have been directly influenced by Blood Beach will always grab my attention. It’s a solid concept; one which the creators of Tremors may have also been influenced by, another flick I love and that made me think of Blood Beach when I first heard about it in the pages of Fangoria back in the early 90s.
There’s a two month break in time between the above and below paragraphs during which I decided to see if I could find someone from the Tremors team of writers to ask about any possible Blood Beach influence. I located co-writer S.S. Wilson on Facebook and sent him a private message, he replied, “I think I only saw Blood Beach after we did Tremors. But I can’t swear that’s true. At least I can say we weren’t consciously influenced by it.”)
One final break in time has occurred again between the above paragraph and the one you’re reading right now, another month I think. Now that I’ve finally seen The Sand (saw it last night) I can finally say even though it shares the same general concept with Blood Beach this particular flick plays out more along the lines of Stephen King’s “The Raft,” with a dash of Deep Rising (1999) thrown in. For those who have never read King’s short story, or seen the movie adaptation done in the horror anthology, Creepshow 2 (1987), The Raft centers on a group of kids who spend a day at this pond with a raft set up in the middle of it, but once they all swim to it they get trapped on it by something resembling a second cousin once removed of The Blob. The situation now becomes how do these kids reach the safety of land without venturing into the water and getting eaten?
In The Sand the beach replaces the water and that raft gets sectioned up into a life guard tower, a car, a truck, a barrel, a picnic table, a fire pit, a surfboard and the broken railing of that tower, but the objective for these eight particular kids remain the same, how do they reach the safety of land without treading on the beach and getting eaten?
As the movie starts it flashes between the morning after and this beach party that occurred the night before. Footage of this party is all captured and viewed through cell phones, and speaking of cell phones, ever since their invention horror movies have been required to come up with creative ways to isolate people from safety. How do you put human beings in jeopardy when a majority of them carry portable communication devices that allow one to call police, an ambulance, the military, friends, basically anyone who can come and help them out? In The Sand the mantra of this party, as set forth by Mitch (Mitchell Musso), is what happens on the beach, stays on the beach, so to prevent anyone from Facebooking or Tweeting about it, he has everyone toss their phones in a sack. Okay, I’ll buy that, a clever first step.
During the party a couple of kids looking for firewood find a weird looking moist egg-like object down on the shoreline and they bring it back, probably thinking they could use it for burning. It’s big (requiring two people to carry) and solid, but if you’ve seen enough creature features you’ll know upon first sight this thing looks like something that’ll end up hatching later and posing some bloody problems for anyone in it’s vicinity and by God that’s exactly what happens.
Our first victims are claimed off screen and aren’t fully registered until our eight remaining survivors take a look around. Remember this is a beach party and naturally once morning arrives there should be a lot more than eight kids laying around in various states of sobriety, horniness and undress, but, you know what, there ain’t. Already this beach has gone down infamy because I can imagine cops eventually tracing all the missing kids back to this one location and learning an unexplained mass disappearance has just happened.
In the meantime we have eight of them: Mitch (Musso) and Kaylee (Brooke Butler) shacked up in the lifeguard tower, while the convertible below managed to save four of her friends and personal nemesis: Jonah (Dean Geyer) and Chandra (Meagan Holder)—Chandra stole Jonah from Kaylee during a “break” in their relationship—and Marsha (Nikki Leigh) and her boyfriend, Vance (Hector David Jr.). A little further out stuck in a barrel is fat dude, Gilbert (Cleo Berry), who was pranked into that barrel and to add insult to injury a dick was drawn on his cheek. He hollers at one point that he’s not dying out here with a dick on his face. Sorry to tell you, Gil, yeah you’re going to die out there with that dick on your face. Rounding out the survivors is a hot chick on the picnic table that wakes hung over and topless!
It’s just natural before anyone can wrap their brains around the magnitude of the kind of unnatural shit they’re in a couple have to die right away just so the learning curve for the others can start to pick up, and sadly the hot, topless chick on the table is the first to kick start that process. Jesus, that pained me to write. She really was hot.
So why isn’t anyone coming to help? Well, the sack of cell phones is in the trunk and opening a trunk without setting foot off the car in any way, shape or form is harder than you think. And, besides, it’s Spring Break, as Marsha states. She’s supposed to be on a plane right now, but what about the other missing kids that got eaten? Hours go by and no one shows up. No cops, no concerned family members. No one! All right, I’ll buy that, but anything longer than 24-hours without discovery would be inconceivable.
The only thing that slowed this movie down for me at certain points was the interpersonal shit the kids had to bring up while they tried to survive, this mostly entailed jealousy and unresolved feelings between Kaylee, Jonah and Chandra, with a jealous flare-up between Jonah and Mitch because Jonah thought he banged his chick in the guard tower the night before. It never happened. All these issues, however, are resolved by the end, most tragically, one unexpectedly.
For a group of kids I was surprised most were relatable, obviously some showed their douchy side, but that didn’t last long. Incidentally this is mostly a “chick flick,” for the guys in this one are ineffective most of the time. They come up with a couple of solid ideas, but not being able to fully understand the foe they’re up against leads to one-upmanship by the creature and a plain old stupid ass accident in the other that claims their lives. The accident one was a total shocker. Did not expect that to happen.
The only famous face I recognized was Jamie Kennedy who plays a beach patrol officer who just happens to stumble on the kids. It’s also plainly obvious Officer Alex won’t live too long. Again this dude just has the bad luck of not fully understanding the far out shit he’s walked into, and from his perspective who could blame him. Kids on a beach screaming at him to get off the sand, then refusing to come down on the beach when he orders them to, sure, who wouldn’t think these poor fuckers aren’t tweaking on something. His presence does show us, though, that if one of them had a pair of boots, or sneakers, or something that covered the feet, they could just run to off the beach. It’s putting skin to sand where you’ll run into serious health problems.
Now, I believe, it’s time to talk of the “monster.” Contrary to what the trailer and the title of the movie hints at the actual sand of the beach isn’t the problem, it’s the things within it which for most of the movie appears to be some kind of small worm, but a multitude of them and a worm that can inflict a venomous sting that renders you numb and inactive while they swarm and devour you in seconds.
I read an article once that said of all the poisonous animals in the world the most poisonous reside in the ocean, a clue as to where these things, or thing, came from. Even a brief touch of one of these worms on your skin will fuck you up. Of course that means a slower death, but that’s how venomous these fuckers are. I like ambiguity in horror movies, but only if handled right, and the origin of The Sand’s creature is never revealed, which was a good idea. Is it alien, or just something from the unseen depths that either by accident or design came into contact with us surface dwellers? Until a sequel surfaces we may never know, but I’m betting on the latter. As the movie progresses so does the creature, and this is where the Deep Rising (1999) vibe I previously mentioned comes in. These worms grow bigger, until by the end they are huge enough to manhandle you and the final confrontation with our last two survivors takes place the following night revealing these “worms” are bio-luminescent, and the only creatures I know that exhibit bio-luminescence reside at oceanic depths where no natural light can penetrate.
The final moments of the movie gives us two revelations. The first one reminded me of that final shot in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) where the camera pulls back to reveal the Titty Twister was just the top of this immense temple. In The Sand, after our final two realize the thing is gone, the camera pulls back to reveal the area of the beach they’re on has undergone some deflation, a large part of it is now sort of in a ditch. A huge part of it actually alluding to the fact that something big under the sand vacated the area.
So where did it go?
This leads us to the final shot of the movie. For those familiar with the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, you’ll get a very Lovecraftian vibe from the immense silhouette gliding under the ocean (see below). These weren’t worms at all but tentacles of one single organism. A very creepy shot as it’s seen heading to this other resort, this one loaded with people.
The gore and monster FX are all computer generated, and while not pitch perfect, they aren’t SyFy channel bad either. They were good enough to keep me engaged. I have no tolerance for bad CGI and if this were SyFy-channel-Sharktopus-bad, this review would be a hell of a lot shorter. Speaking of gore the scenes of faces dissolving, eyeballs falling out, arms being eaten off and a full body going from intact to bloody pieces and then finally dust to dust are effectively staged and reacted to by the actors with total competence. Two of the chicks also seem to be able to cry on command, which is one of those details I happened to notice. Far too many times I see horrified or emotionally traumatized characters in horror movies just going through the motions without nary a tear shed, but these two go the extra mile and cry which added to the believability of the horror they witnessed which in turn helped to horrify me. Good job, Brooke and Meagan. Nikki on the other hand needs some pointers. Without the tears I kept thinking she really didn’t give a shit her boyfriend was dead.
This is the third creature feature I’ve reviewed lately that revolves around ocean dweller critters and the second creature feature I’ve reviewed that has Jamie Kennedy in it. The other one was Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015).
Back on October 13th Monarch Home Entertainment released The Sand on DVD only!
Buy It Here On Amazon!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen—English Dolby Digital Stereo—No subtitles.
Extras included . . .
Speaking directly to my Gen-X generation, until we get Blood Beach on blu-ray or even DVD, don’t snub your nose at The Sand, there’s some fun to be had in this sandbox, and for Millennials… I tried to do what I did when I reviewed the Poltergeist remake a week ago, as I tend to try and do whenever I watch any remake of any “memory movie” from my childhood. I was thirteen when I first saw Blood Beach and I think any thirteen-year-old viewing The Sand, depending on how jaded you are to horror movies, and if they still have the power to frighten you, should rightly be scared a little bit shitless by this one.