J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Sand: Beach Blanket Monster Bash

After a long, hard semester of sun & surf, Kaylee and her friends can finally enjoy spring break. So far, there has been less reality in their lives than a typical episode of Friends, but karma, if not realism, is about to catch up with them. Something hatched during their bon voyage blowout and it has turned the beach deadly in Isaac Gabaeff’s The Sand (trailer here), which releases today on DVD from Monarch Home Entertainment.

There was a lot of drinking and hooking up the night before, but nobody will be embarrassed, because Mitch had the foresight to collect everyone’s phones and smart devices. He will spend the night consoling Kaylee over her ex now hooking up with her former bestie Chandra, but that is as far as he gets. It is already awkward when Kaylee and Mitch wake up in the life guard station twenty feet from the convertible where Jonah and Chandra still slumber. However, things really get awkward when they realize there is something horrific lurking under the sand.

Kaylee only needs to see a few seagulls sucked under to draw the right conclusions, but Mitch, Jonah, and Ronnie in the backseat, will have to watch her boyfriend die a gruesome death before they accept the situation. Unfortunately, Jonah the knucklehead drained the battery over the course of the hedonistic night. Things will get uncomfortable for them as the sun starts to beat down, but the convertible trio is still better off than their pal Gilbert, whose tubby butt was stuffed in a barrel.

Do not jump to conclusions based on the bikinis. The Sand might sound like a silly Cormanesque beach monster mash-up, but it is really a surprisingly credible lifeboat thriller, executed with Kevin Williamsonesque attitude. Granted, these are all nauseatingly privileged airheads, but by horror movie standards, they are extraordinarily proactive. Following Kaylee’s lead, they start taking productive steps as early as the first act. Unfortunately, the beach patrol blowhard is played by Jamie Kennedy, so no help there. At least, it is his funniest screen appearance in years.

It turns out Gabaeff is quite adept at staging their halting attempts to shimmy around the sand. It is sort of like a lethal game of twister in which both feet must remain on a hard surface. He rather sparingly shows the monster itself, which is just as well, since the big CGI spectacles are not so hot looking. However, whenever someone falls into the same, the resulting gore is totally satisfying. While it is conspicuously obvious why Brooke Butler, Meagan Holder, and Cynthia Murrell were cast as Kaylee, Chandra, and Ronnie, they never give the sort of awkward line-readings you would expect to find in 1980s direct-to-video gems. Seriously, they are all pretty solid. Yet, it gets downright painful (in the right way) to watch Cleo Berry’s Gilbert sweltering in his barrel.

If you are the sort of person who approaches every new low budget horror movie with optimism, The Sand is the kind of film that justifies your faith. It has a knowing fondness for all the piranha and crab monster creature features that came before it, but it still gets down to genre business quite effectively. No kidding, this is a cool film. Recommended for anyone looking for Halloween viewing with a lot of beach bodies, The Sand is now available on DVD and VOD from Monarch Home Entertainment.

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