Have you ever thought about how slow and flat-out incapable zombies (excluding the 28 Days Later type) are in terms of physically chasing down and killing their human prey? When someone gets bit by a good ol’ old-fashioned zombie, it’s either because A) they were the character with the lowest IQ, B) they were the antagonist and their death scene had been highly anticipated, or C) the writers couldn’t have had EVERY character survive.
The concept of mobility in zombie films has always interested me, as different approaches are taken among different Z-day portrayals. For example, in the Resident Evil films, the zombies tend to change speeds – when the plot needs them to be slow to create a suspenseful situation, they are slow; when the plot needs the dead meaty creatures to be fast and take a chomp on somebody, they are fast. On the flip side of this lackadaisical attitude toward the velocity of the undead, in the remake of Night of the Living Dead, Barbara speaks the smartest words ever spoken in a Z-film: “They’re so slow. We could just walk right past them. We wouldn’t even have to run” (Romero, 1990). Behold, an idea that everyone that finds themselves in such a situation should remember! Instead of falling into the same cliches and needless absurdities that a lot of these movies cling to, that one drew attention to the extreme physical restrictions of zombies.
It Stains the Sands Red takes this concept and runs with it, pun intended.
Molly and her boyfriend/drug dealer find themselves stranded outside Las Vegas amidst a zombie apocalypse. Eventually a zombie comes along and kills the boyfriend, leaving Molly alone to high-tail it to an air base, some 36 miles across the desert. Armed with a small amount of water bottles, a bottle of vodka, a lighter, and other random items, she begins this life-or-death journey as the same zombie continues to follow her with a dedicated yet realistic zombie’s persistence; when she tires and her pace slows, so does Smalls’ (her nickname for the zombie, short for “small dick”). From calling him a stalker and making fun of his hair, to dragging him along with her using a blow-up raft, Molly’s relationship to Smalls evolves from prey-predator to something a little more complicated and intensely more comical.
A thematic layer that is usually absent from these types of films can be discerned, but is not overtly stated: it is as if, by chasing her, the zombie was pushing her to survive and to move forward with her own life, past regrets included. The chase, however harrowing and frightening, was actually a catalyst for not just Molly’s survival, but for her personal growth as well.
The plot itself was fairly thin, and there were plenty of goofy moments (Molly honestly could have done with a more interesting backstory); however, the novelty and the change of framing of a zombie film that this offered definitely leaves it as one of the most unique Z-films I’ve seen as of late.