No one complains that each new variation on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Incredible Shrinking Man premise is a rip-off, so The Sand should probably get a pass for being the first film since 1980’s Blood Beach to depict an unknown creature lurking under a sandy beach to snack on passing human meat. Indeed, while its menace is very like that of Blood Beach, the storyline is closer to the raft episode of Creepshow 2 or Larry Fessenden’s recent killer fish picture Beneath – and the film fits into a recent cycle of small-scale peril pictures (Open Waters, Adrift, Frozen, Burning Bright, Buried, etc) in which small groups of people are trapped in familiar yet hostile environments.
A bunch of college kids head to the beach for a wild graduation party – heroine Kaylee (Brooke Butler of All Cheerleaders Die) is so ticked off that her nearly-ex Jonah (Dean Geyer) has hooked up with hottie Chonda (Meagan Holder) that she doesn’t notice cut-up Gilbert (Cleo Berry) has fetched some sort of alien/cryptozoological egg along with driftwood for the fire. The next morning, after a wild party montage, Kaylee and crush-nurturing Mitch (Mitchel Musso) are in a lifeguard station, Joan and Chonda and dimwit Marsha (Nikki Leigh) are in a car and Gilbert is stuffed in a barrel with a penis drawn on his face. Several characters who step onto the sand are sucked under by tendrils – and gruesomely dissolved – prompting the realisation that the piles of clothes strewn around are all that’s left of the other party people.
The script by Alex Greenfield (The Temple) and Ben Powell (The Aggression Scale) knowingly sets up contrivances – most of the cell-phones are in the trunk of the car to ensure party hijinx don’t wind up on the internet, the car won’t start, etc – to limit the characters’ options and there’s enough bad feeling in the group to distract them from the business of escaping from a monster which only extends about twenty yards. As in most movies in this cycle, various escape or survival methods are improvised using whatever comes to hand and there are regular foul-ups which serve to add to the body count. At one point, a beach patrolman (Jamie Kennedy) comes by in thick-soled boots which protect him for a while, but he’s more interested in haranguing the kids than being any help.
Though well-acted, smartly-written and nicely directed by Isaac Gabaeff to ratchet up the tension, The Sand suffers from hit-or-miss CGI effects – even the lo-tech practical monster/gore effects of vintage Corman c Attack of the Giant Leeches or Frank Henenlotter in his Basket Case-Brain Damage mode would play better than the glitchy, cartoony pixel-jumble that passes for a monster here. Though one early explicit death is relatively well-realised through CGI, most of the rest of the deaths are less effective. Followers of racial politics in teen horror will note that the only black characters are the scheming slut and the big fat joke, though Holder and Berry are bright, energetic performers who at least make the stereotypes amusing and mostly sympathetic. In another overfamiliar role, Leigh similarly brings unexpected depth to the doomed blonde bimbo.