REVIEW: RED SANDS

CAST

Shane West (Nikita)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Aldis Hodge (Leverage)
Callum Blue (Smallville)
Brendan Miller (Project X)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Noel Gugliemi (Training Day)
Mercedes Mason (The Finder)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)

In 2002, Jeff Keller, who mysteriously survived the slaughter of his troops during a mission, is debriefed by an officer. The facts gathered indicate that he and his soldiers had been ambushed by al-Qaeda fighters who killed them all, leaving Keller for dead. Two weeks before, in September 2002, Keller’s crew gets a mission assignment and is set out to an isolated farmhouse where a family had been slaughtered days before. Their mission is to monitor a road as a sting to catch militants using it to transfer supplies. However, after an unintended stop at a mysterious shrine, a bored member of their group, Chard Davies, fires a few rounds at a stone idol, causing it to shatter. The squad’s interpreter Wilcox believes that it was a shrine to a Djinn, a powerful deity made from a smokeless flame, which in mythology matched the legend of a genie.
They return to their convoy and go to the farmhouse. While there, a series of bizarre events unfold. A sandstorm comes up and the group catches an unnamed Afghan woman running in, seeking shelter. Unable to speak her language they are unable to understand what she is saying, though dubious to her arrival, they keep her in case there are more. During the following days, tension begins to mount in the group. Staff Sergeant Howston is unable to reach any of their allies by radio; when Wilcox attempts to, he hears a strange distress call stating that their sergeant has gone AWOL which Howston cannot hear. Paranoia begins to get the better of them when Howston receives word that they missed a car on the road which they cannot see, and their truck’s ignition system is destroyed one night. Meanwhile, Howston and Wilcox are being haunted by gruesome images of people they had killed in the past.
Wilcox goes missing, and the only witness seems to be team member Tino Hull, who sees another member, Jorge Wardell, giving off a terrifying roar before him. That night, Wilcox’s dead body is found with his eyes removed and his face in a frozen expression of terror, and after a series of vivid and bizarre dreams Hull grabs another member Trevor Anderson and holds him at gunpoint as he accuses Wardell of killing Wilcox. Hull opens fire on Wardell and Davies is forced to retaliate, killing Hull. Howston orders them to take the bodies outside, and the next morning, the group is shocked to find that they are missing. Howston, slowly losing his grip on his sanity, orders Keller and Anderson to keep guard outside while he himself watches to make sure nothing else goes missing. While they are gone, Davies attempts to rape the Afghan girl, and in a heated moment calls Howston a “fucking nigger”, prompting Howston to hit him. In anger, Davies attempts to attack Howston, and Howston finally cracks, killing Davies and ordering Anderson and Keller to stash his body outside.
Afterwards, Howston goes missing, as does the girl as the remaining two attempt to make radio contact, Keller realizes that the voice he heard on the radio was that of Anderson when he makes the same radio call he had heard days prior. The pair plan to make a break for the rest of their group, but the girl appears briefly in the house and Keller goes to find her. Meanwhile, Anderson is confronted by the dead Wilcox who reveals himself to be a hideous creature. Before Anderson can react, however, he is killed by a shot to the head from the stalking Howston. Howston prowls the farm looking for Keller and is shocked when he comes across the same creature that Anderson had seen. His defenses lowered after running, Keller manages to gain the upper hand and slits the Sergeant’s throat. Keller then encounters the Afghan girl, who turns out to be the Djinn, and manages to escape by throwing a grenade into the ammo-filled farmhouse. The following morning, Keller is grabbed by something from underneath the sand and pulled down, disappearing under the desert. The first scene then recaps, and after the commanding officer tells him that he will be returned to the United States, he leaves. Keller then looks toward the camera, his eyes turning black revealing he is in fact the Djinn. As the screen pans out to the desert again it is revealed to the audience that Keller is dead, half buried in the sand, his eyes removed and his mouth open wide in terror. The screen then goes dark, and the credits roll.
Red Sands is a claustrophobic and tense psychological horror movie, with a great surrealistic story that can be interpreted as a madness process of a group of soldiers stranded in a place that they do not understand the culture and the language. Worth Watching for Smallvile’s Callum Blue.
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