cast: Shane West, Leonard Roberts, Callum Blue, Aldis Hodge, and Brendan Miller
director: Alex Turner
85 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Sony DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Paul Higson
Okay, let’s not spend too much time on this; it’s wasted enough of mine already. War is hell and so too can be movie reviewing. Alex Turner’s Red Sands follows the recent trend in combining war and supernatural horror, a splicing that has been, to date, generally rewarding in films like Deathwatch, The Outpost, R-Point, and The Bunker, all of which boast winning atmospherics. However, Red Sands fails on ambience. It pretty much fails on every front.
The synopsis is easy: in September 2002, seven American soldiers are positioned in a remote spot in Afghanistan in order to curtail opposition movements. One of the men shoots up a statue carved into a rockface and, in so doing, releases a centuries entombed shape-shifting djinn which embarks on a motive-free murder spree. The troops have nothing to say, the script has less to say, the viewer has nothing to do.
Nu-school film technique is as typically evident from the outset. The camera ducks and dives, loses focus, returns to focus, nudges left and right, and, whoa, what’s this, heat waver vision… let’s have some of that. This isn’t a movie… it’s a fucking eye test. I wouldn’t stand for any of this. I’d have the DoP up the road. Jitter-vision is a dead end. The director, Turner, and his cinematographer Sean O’Dea are masturbating excitedly with their equipment and the results are inevitably in the toilet. This onanism extends to the effects department ensuring that the £1m budget is either divided up amongst an endless list of people or there are almost as many keen beginners on deferment. Ten minutes in, and the seven soldiers are introduced in a rough ride with the actors in freeze frame with their names and rank superimposed on the screen. It is uncertain at this stage whether these are the names of the actors with the possibility that they are to be known by their rank in the film. It looks for-all-the-world like a naff army promotional film at this point. It is unnecessary to pay attention; the characters can all merge into one for the little they have to offer.
J.K. Simmons is the celebrity guest star though what an actor of his calibre is doing in this stodgy bunkum is anybody’s guess. He plays a senior officer with the ludicrous name of Arson, and his two scenes were clearly run off in the small of an afternoon. The djinn jabbers in Aramaic because it is the in-language. A goat-herder is found buried up to his waist in the sand. One soldier informs the others that it is a local reprimand and that the victim has been stoned though if that is the case it is with polystyrene pebbles as his injuries are non-existent. You get a good impression of the poor level of direction on the film in the supporting materials where you find that Alex Turner is only a pretend director and one of his leading players, Noel G., seems to believe that the film was set in Iraq.
You will get to know more good and convincing things about the genuine systems in the market when you get to the deepest if the information that is given and described straight from the source. So always try to see if you get such information and then proceed to make your money deposits.
Noel G. does not espouse any great intellect during the tour of the locations (a Californian shoot) and probably shares his geographical know-not with George Bush thinking Afghanistan is the capital of Iraq. Rent it never.