“Admirable” probably isn’t the first (or 20th) word you’d think of to describe a movie about killer sand, but The Sand feels like a well-intentioned attempt at a post-racial horror film that bucks genre conventions of pre-determined roles based on looks, race and gender.
It’s otherwise SyFy-level fare with dated Sci Fi Channel-level computer graphics about a group of eight friends (High schoolers? College students? It doesn’t really matter; they’re clearly too old to be either.) who awaken on a beach after a night of drunken Spring Break revelry to find the rest of the partygoers have abandoned them — or so they think. It turns out they’ve been eaten by something in the sand, and the ones who haven’t were spared because they slept where they weren’t in direct contact with the sand — in a car, on a table, in a lifeguard stand and in the case of “black guy” Gilbert (Cleo Berry), in a trash can, where he was dumped after passing out and where he spends THE ENTIRE MOVIE.
After a couple of the friends step on the sand and die — NOT Gilbert or “black girl” Chanda (Meagan Holder) — it becomes clear the ground is to be avoided. Conveniently (plot-wise), however, their car won’t start, and their phones are locked away, so they have to put aside their differences and band together to survive what’s lurking below.
Their “differences” stem primarily from heroine Kaylee (Brooke Butler) seeing longtime beau Jonah (Dean Geyer) smooching Chanda at the party the night before. We come to learn that Jonah is truly sorry for what he did and that he and Kaylee are meant for each other, or some shit like that.
It’s at this point that I fully expected Chanda to devolve into raging bitch mode and be unceremoniously sacrificed to the horror movie gods of black death to allow Kaylee and Jonah to ride off into the sunset, but lo and behold, The Sand doesn’t allow Chanda to fall into the “angry black woman” stereotype; she’s actually contrite — perhaps too much so, as she allows Kaylee to punch her in the face (!) and turns the other cheek.
*SPOILER ALERT* Within the horror movie morality code, this allows Chanda to survive, but the reveal of her low self-esteem and her idolization of the lily-white couple raises some racial discomfort. “You guys are the perfect couple — beautiful, smart, totally in love,” she fawns, adding “I wanted the fairy tale, even if it was for just a minute. Besides, you guys would’ve made up and got back together in a couple of days, and I’m back to square one: man-stealing bitch Chanda.” It’s a conflicting portrayal, because otherwise, Chanda is smart, level-headed and heroic (if not particularly successful) in her effort to save lives.
Race is never mentioned, and I’m sure the writers want this love triangle to be taken in a race-neutral context, but hey, we live in America. And when Kaylee finds some sunblock and tosses it to Chanda, It’s certainly hard not to read into Kaylee’s snide response to Chanda’s complaint that she’s been baking in the sun for hours: “You’ve got a good base, Chanda,” she retorts. “You’ll be fine.” Who’s up for a punch in the face?
In the end, we’re to believe that the two gals have settled their beef, which becomes moot when Jonah dies, and they actually are the ones who walk off into the sunset together. Disappointingly, there is no hot interracial lesbian post-credits scene.
Gilbert, meanwhile, is a typical modern spook stereotype, literally spending the whole movie yelling, “Get me the fuck outta here” before dying while screaming like an 8-year-old girl.