Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

Sometimes I just have to put my head in my hands after I read the stoney-faced, harrumphing reviews of my contemporaries. So many of them are such miserable mofo’s, devoid of the ability to engage in a ninety minute flight of fancy, as they’re so obsessed with the notion of reality and realism. The irony is of course that they spend most of their lives writing about horror films, something that slaps the two nouns from the previous sentence across the chops. THE SAND is a perfect case in point, with the majority of bloggers bemoaning the plausibility of certain aspects of the movie.

It’s a movie about a sand alien that eats people.

But yes, let’s mock the improbable moments of the narrative with a snooty disdain so we can go off and rub our thighs over The Hallow or something.

And breathe.

After an all-night graduation party, a group of hung-over students wake up under a blazing sun to find their numbers somewhat depleted. It seems that an enormous alien creature has burrowed down deep beneath the sand, and anyone who touches the surface of it finds themselves at the mercy of a sea of flesh-eating tentacles that can only mean death and dismemberment.

The Sand is a ridiculous movie, and by setting it solely in its beach location, it’s likely to be a patience-tester for the easily distracted among us. Indeed, after the first twenty minutes or so, once the premise has been established, I did pause for a short while to wonder how they can make this feature-length AND interesting. Somehow though, they succeeded; it’s such a unique film, and because of that ingenuity you do find yourself rooting for it. Of course it has its flaws, but they’re more related to pacing than the storyline, as I wondered if some of the moments of adversity are a little too prolonged, but thankfully consistently impressive payoffs negate such concerns.

Jamie Kennedy pops up as Beach Patrol Alex to mark the comedy watershed in the picture with a succession of laugh-out-loud one-liners, and despite the obvious limitations with regard to budget and special effects, The Sand sits quite comfortably in the moreish low-budget horror / sci-fi oeuvre that’s home to such re-watchable fare as Decoys and Grabbers.

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I have to say I’ve given the UK distributer New Horizon films a fair bit of abuse over the last year, and deservedly so, as their raft of acquisitions seem to point to them presumably losing a bet with every other UK label; the punishment being that they have to shamelessly release such consistently woeful dirge. The frustrating thing that I find is the idea that this faceless, social media shy group manage to always get their product into such high-potential retail space like supermarkets. Needless to say when their latest title appeared among the forthcoming releases, I pigeon-holed it prematurely as a stinker, while a cursory glance at IMDb took in an oh-so-glowing user review that labelled it “Worse than Birdemic!”. Firstly, nothing is worse than Birdemic, and secondly, why do I continue to give them my money?

The answer to that comes down to the old infinite monkey theorem, that sooner or later something simply must be a keeper, and the surprise is that THE HOTEL very nearly falls into that category. Originally called The Damned Thing, it centres around Eddie Osborne, a paranormal investigator who carries himself with the same aura of authenticity as his namesake Eddie Brewer, from Andrew Spencer’s chilling Brit-Horror. Setting up in an abandoned hotel, he regales his freshly acquired videographer with three tales of supernatural occurrences that he’s encountered during his career.

Ah! A horror anthology, it must have been at least three weeks since the last one! I jest, as even with this current glut of portmanteau’s, it’s still a very pleasing sight to welcome this format back from the wilderness. The Hotel is far from perfect, but, this debut feature length film from Derrick Granado does have enough to recommend for those wishing to indulge on some micro-budget ambition. Its main problem lies in its inconsistency, as the segments feel quite imbalanced at thirty, twelve and seventeen minutes respectively. It also peaks far too early, with the first story being quite an affecting little haunted house tale with a looming score, and an effective reliance on simple scares, while the others fall down the barrel of uninspiring averageness. With a half decent wraparound and a couple of artistic flourishes, Granado’s film hangs over the precipice of mediocrity with rapidly diminishing fingernails, but hang on it does.

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