Now on VOD and in theaters from Dark Sky Films is Colin Minihan’s It Stains the Sands Red, a sun-drenched zombie survival tale that features Brittany Allen as a woman named Molly who is being stalked by a lone zombie (Juan Riedinger) as she traverses the unforgiving desert landscape in search of hope after all hell breaks loose in Las Vegas.

Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Minihan about his approach to It Stains the Sands Red, and he discussed the challenges of making a zombie film that audiences haven’t already seen time and time again, working with Allen, and more.

Congrats on the film, Colin. I'd love to hear about what inspired you to take this approach in particular, because it’s so different than most zombie stories these days. Did you and [co-writer] Stuart [Ortiz] recognize as you were working on the script that it was going to be a challenge to make a zombie movie that fans had not seen before?

Colin Minihan: Yeah. The initial genesis came from a conversation that Stu and I had after we both watched World War Z and were kind of like, "Okay, the zombie movie is officially dead. It's become an action franchise now and forever." So then I just asked him, "What do you think hasn't been done in the zombie genre and what can be done on a low budget?" At the time, we were in California and we were hanging around in the desert a fair bit, just kind of exploring, really. So maybe there was a part of us that knew we were going to make something out in the desert.

He just said to me, "Man, I don't know if you can do a zombie movie on a low budget. You need great makeup and all that." So I asked him how you’d fix that, saying, "What's the first thing that comes to your head?" And he was like, "I don't know, one zombie." And I was like, "That's awesome. One zombie. We should write a movie with one zombie in it. We should do the polar opposite of what we see on television with The Walking Dead and what just came out with the mega huge Brad Pitt movie."

And then we started exploring why there was one zombie and who was it following. We were also constantly joking about how you could only walk 100 feet in the California desert before just wanting to pass out and die, and what a nightmare it would be if something was actually chasing you in that desert. What if that thing chasing you didn't have to stop and sleep? And it just grew from that, really.

Brittany really gets put through the paces on this, and the hardest part was watching her in those crazy shoes the entire time. Although, I have to admit, I was also glad that she didn’t “conveniently” find a pair of sneakers, too [laughs].

Colin Minihan: Yeah, for sure. And just that somewhat trashy way that we meet her at the beginning was interesting, too. We definitely wanted to create something of an iconic anti-hero with that character, so styling her and finding that particular pair of shoes that looked absolutely horrendous to be stuck in the desert with, but also ones that she wouldn't necessarily roll her ankle on right away, was super important because she wasn't taking those off and switching into runners in between takes or close-ups or anything.

She was wearing those shoes the whole time, so it was a little bit nerve-racking, but we were lucky we found a pair that she said she was comfortable enough in. I still don't know if I believe her, though [laughs].

Just to expand on that, can you talk about that challenge of creating this character that, at first, is unlikeable, and even a little bit brash, too, but by the end, you're totally in love with her?

Colin Minihan: I really love flawed leads. I hate it when a movie sets out and the lead is just this perfect human being. When we realized we were going to shoot in Nevada, I think that both of our heads instantly went to brothels and strip clubs, and who is the person that comes from that world that has redeeming qualities that will only come out in due time throughout the course of this journey that they're on? It was not an easy feat.

The first draft of the script was written for a man, actually, and it was written like three and a half years ago, but something about it didn't really work. But then when the idea came to change it to a girl, it was an interesting process, seeing everything in this story just a little bit differently. When we realized that this character was stronger as a woman, it was more exciting, and her flaws felt more real and more forgivable, and then it really took shape. It made the relationship between her and the zombie mean a little bit more as well.

It's not uncommon to see zombies present some kind of allegorical meaning in cinema, but I think the way even Smalls, the zombie, evolves as a character was interesting. Because at first, he’s just this character that is coming after Molly, and you can draw some direct parallels with how society treats women. But then, their relationship changes, and Smalls begins to represent something totally different to her. I just thought that was a really refreshing spin to see.

Colin Minihan: Well, it’s about two things happening. There's that relationship that continues to get deeper and deeper between them, but really it's all just Molly projecting herself onto the zombie because, for the first time, she actually has someone that's there. Smalls is just sitting there looking at her when she's above him, standing on a rock, versus her having to deal with another dominating man that she's surrounded herself with her whole life. He becomes the first male that is just ready to listen, and that allows her to work through a lot of her problems. But then he ends up saving her from this horrible situation that creates this major turning point for her character, too, where she no longer is necessarily afraid of him on that level.

So it just came about organically when we were writing it. We just started writing dialogue about how he's just like every asshole guy she meets in Las Vegas, and so that's kind of what she's projecting on him at first, is that he might as well just be a guy at the bar that won't leave her alone. And then by the end of it, he becomes much more of a, I wouldn't necessarily say "companion," but in a way, he does become her sounding board.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.