So, imagine this scenario.
The world’s ending, again. The city that you once called home — in this case, Las Vegas — is on fire. Hordes of zombies are attacking the living and it seems like even the people who have, up until now, survived the undead have still allowed their worst instincts to take over. The military is opening fire on anyone that they come across and scavengers, both living and not, are all over the place.
Your boyfriend, Nick, has a way to escape. His lowlife buddies have a plane ready to go. They’re just waiting for him to show up, mostly because he’s bringing the drugs. His friends, of course, could hardly care less about you but, as long as you show up with Nick, you know that you’ll be able to escape with them. Unfortunately, Nick is now dead. His throat was ripped open by a zombie.
So, now, you’re walking across the Nevada desert and you’re just trying to make it to the airfield without getting killed. It’s over a 100 degrees out. You’re not sure where you’re going. You’re not dressed for a desert journey. You’re haunted by memories of your son. Though you’re smarter than people give you credit for being, you have no desert survival skills. Meanwhile, the same zombie that killed Nick is staggering along behind you, hoping to get a chance to do the same to you.
And, just in case this week wasn’t bad enough, you’re also on your period and you have exactly one tampon.
That’s the situation in which Molly (played by Brittany Allen) finds herself in the 2017 zombie film, It Stains The Sands Red. As Molly makes her way through the desert, she finds herself becoming cautiously attached to the zombie pursuing her, a zombie that she nicknames Smalls (and who is played by Juan Reidinger). It makes sense, really. For most (though not all) of the movie, Smalls is the only other creature around. Who else is Molly going to talk to? It also helps that, being a walking corpse, Smalls can’t interrupt her while she’s speaking or dismiss her concerns out-of-hand. When you compare him to the living people that Molly meets, a group that includes two redneck rapists and a few trigger-happy soldiers, it’s easy to view Smalls as being harmless.
Or, at least, it’s easy to view him that way until he gets too close and tries to bite off your finger.
I had mixed feelings about It Stains The Sands Red. It’s an extremely uneven film, one that is sometimes quite clever and even empowering and sometimes rather forgettable. Molly’s monologues bring a welcome feminist sensibility to the zombie genre and there’s a clever scene in which she uses a bloody tampon to distract her zombie stalker. And yet, it’s indicative of both the film’s strengths and its weaknesses that the scene with the tampon is played as much for shock value than as an example of Molly’s resourcefulness. The film is full of scenes in which we see that Molly has somehow managed to slow down or subdue Smalls but we’re always left wondering how she managed to get close enough to him without getting attacked. Smalls’s effectiveness as a zombie seems to change from scene-to-scene, depending on the needs of the narrative.
And yet, there’s one thing that I greatly appreciated about It Stains The Sands Red and that was the character of Molly. As soon as you see her snorting cocaine while wearing her leopard-print leggings, her pleather halter top, and her fake fur, you know that Molly is the type of character who usually dies within the first 15 minutes of a film like this. Instead, Molly not only survives the first 15 minutes but she goes on to repeatedly show that she’s far more determined and intelligent than anyone in the viewing audience originally gave her credit for being. She emerges as a compelling and determined survivor, one who refuses to surrender to either the desert or its predators. Molly is the type of strong female character that horror fans like me have always wanted to see in a film like this. She elevates It Stains The Sands Red above its flaws and makes the film worth watching. In the role of Molly, Brittany Allen brings life to this film about the dead.