Last year saw the astonishing Train to Busan and The Girl With All The Gifts take the zombie sub-genre into exciting new territories. Now writer/ director Colin Minihan (Grave Encounters, Extraterrestrial) and co-writer Stuart Ortiz, push the envelope further with a progressive horror that’s equally exhilarating as it is emotional and most importantly fun. As well as being loaded with imperative blood, guts and terror, ISTSR is also shockingly poignant, with a straight-forward narrative. It’s an off-beat zombie flick unlike any other for ISTSR is also a chase/ road movie, crime/ drug thriller, love story, comedy and family drama as well as perceptibly a horror. Its closest comparison point would be Maggie, but where the Schwarzenegger drama was an irrefutable slow burner, ISTSR is elating and with a plethora of horror cogs to ensure it works as something new for genre fans as well as general audiences.

After her car breaks down in the desert, during an escape from a flaming Las Vegas, mother/ drug addict Molly (Brittany Allen) is forced to trek 36 miles in the blistering heat to find “work colleague” Jimmy. Armed with water, tampons, cocaine and cigarettes, our heroine sets off but is not alone: a trundling zombie is hot on her tracks. While outrunning a Deadhead doesn’t seem like much of a task, the heat soon debilitates Molly and slows her down to within eating distance of the dithering ghoul who wants nothing but to gnaw on her sweat-salted flesh.

It Stains The Sands RedISTSR frequently twists from one genre to another and feels perpetually fresh. The story first becomes a buddy/ chase movie gilded with critical comedy. “The great things about coke is I don’t have to eat anything”, Molly says as she stops to powder her nose while her “banter” with the salivating masticator “Smalls” (played by Juan Riedinger), is side-splitting to the point of distracting from her predicament. Molly deterring him with a bloody tampon then tossing it so he scurries to suck on it like a dog, is hilarious. Leaking blood in the sand lures Smalls on further while tension mounts. Director Minihan understands audiences’ expectation and uses that to wheedle viewers into an appropriate state of mind before scaring the living shit out of them. A scene with a scorpion in a bath-tub is distressing and proves Minihan can mine horror as much as the numerous genres he’s juggling; proved further in a sandstorm set rape/ zombie attack sequence and when somebody cuts their finger off with a rock.

Minihan’s ability to evoke trepidation is as efficient as his aptitude for heart-rending drama which enriches both the story and protagonist. ISTSR is further reinforced by a fantastic performance from Brittany Allen (soon to be seen in Saw: Legacy) and multifarious characters with realistic arcs. Molly forms a connection with Smalls despite him salivating in her wake, claiming he’s “like every other guy she’s met”. These feelings turn her and the narrative into a startling new direction as she blooms beyond the wild-eyed junkie for a staggering finale. ISTSR is thrilling, fascinating, groundbreaking and deserves a wider audience than its marketing might find it. It’s a remarkable work for film fans in general, as well as being one of the greatest zombie movies ever made.

It Stains the Sands Red
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Daniel Goodwin is a prevalent film writer for multiple websites including HeyUGuys, Scream Horror Magazine, Little White Lies, i-D and Dazed. After studying Film, Media and Cultural Studies at university and Creative Writing at the London School of Journalism, Daniel went on to work in TV production for Hat Trick Productions, So Television and The London Studios. He has also worked at the Home Office, in the private office of Hilary Benn MP and the Coroner's and Burials Department, as well as on the Movies on Pay TV market investigation for the Competition Commission.