I don’t know if Red Sands sets a record for ruining the film’s ending, after all, the Strangers did one hell of a great job with the title cards, but it’s possibly unique in the way the film throws away not just the twist ending, but every main plot point in its opening seconds.

The first scene of the film involves Doctor Ray from ER sitting in an Afghani military installation, being questioned by his superior officer, prominent genre actor and professional J. Jonah Jameson impersonator, J.K. Simmons.

Ray’s staring at the camera intensely while JK explains that everyone else in the squad was killed, and no one knows how.

You can tell Ray is upset because he’s doing that Stanely Kubrick crazy-guy thing, tilting his head down while looking straight ahead. It’s how actors convey ‘crazy’.

Naturally, the rest of the film is a flashback to the events that led us here, which proves a crippling blow to any chance the film might have of generating suspense.

Why? Because based on this scene, we know exactly how the rest of the film is going to play out. As I’ve mentioned, Ray is the only survivor of the film’s main story. There are two possible overall reasons for this – the rather unlikely ‘he’s managed to get out alive by the skin of his teeth’ (unlikely because men don’t do too well in movies like this), and the far more likely ‘his survival is actually supposed to be an unhappy ending’, which is incredibly popular in situations like this, because hack filmmakers strongly believe that horror movies absolutely must have an unhappy ending.

So right away, we know, to an 80-90% certainty, that his survival is a bad thing, because he’s looking at the camera with intensity, and this is a horror film. But at least the specific way in which his survival is a bad thing is up in the air, right? Finding out which one of the three possible options it is (1. He’s been infected/mind controlled, so now he’s going to spread the evil around. 2. That’s not actually Ray, but rather the monster. 3. It turns out he’s crazy, and actually killed all his friends, which we’ll learn in a final twist that invalidates everything we’ve seen up until that point – I was praying it wouldn’t be 3) should make for some interesting viewing, yes?

Unfortunately, no. You see, this shot wasn’t the absolute first thing in the movie – that was an utterly superfluous title card, explaining which specific monster the movie is going to be about:

Yup. The monster’s a shape-shifter. Which means we’re looking at unhappy ending 2. Bravo, Red Sands, you just laid out the entire film to us on a platter less than two minutes in. The team is going to encounter a genie, then wind up at an isolated location, where the genie uses its shape-shifting powers to turn them against each other until everyone’s dead. Do you really think people are going to stick around just for the gore effects after having every twist telegraphed so blatantly?

Well, I did – but to be fair, I was also there to confirm my prejudging of the film’s entire plot. Surprise, surprise, I was exactly right.

The film is so predicable that I doubt I’d even have to recap the plot, suffice to say that the exact things you’d think would happen do, in fact, happen, and move on from there.

On, back to the beginning, where we get a final piece of stupid writing in the title cards.

Why did they qualify the statement twice in the first sentence? First there’s the idea that the genies are just ‘thought’ to have left, and second, we’re only talking about ‘most’ of the genies. So even among those who think the genies are gone, it’s common knowledge that there’s at least a few genies still kicking around.

If that’s the case, why is the second sentence even necessary? How hard would it have been to make the first statement short and declarative, then contradict it with the second. “Millennia ago, the genies left the human world en masse… but a few remained behind.” See? How hard was that?

Now let’s jump right to the end of this movie, because I think there’s something very interesting about a movie whose awfulness can be best expressed by looking solely at its opening and closing images. Remember how I said the film’s unhappy ending was entirely predictable based on the opening image and title cards? Now, before looking at the next image, I’d like to ask a question – based on the ending we’re guaranteed to have (the genie has replaced Ray), what visual cue do you imagine the filmmakers would use to convey that to the audience?

Lock in your answers now, then look at the image below:

Did you have “His eyes become inky pools of blackness”? If so, congratulations! You’ve proven, as have the filmmakers, that you’ve seen a film, ever.

Oh, Red Sands – I’d tell everyone not to watch you, but by reading this review, they already have. Save for the ridiculous subtitled freeze-frames that introduce us to characters and announce their names. Those were a big surprise.

Not anymore, though.

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