Following the tale of sorority pledge Zurich (Trevor Jackson) and his pledge brothers during Hell Week, ‘Burning Sands’ is a brutal, realistic commentary about what it takes to get into a sorority house that lacks the emotional connection to make it a hit. The film doesn’t shy away from the hazing scenes; plenty of physical and verbal abuse are thrown at the pledges and as it continues to get worse, Zurich struggles to stay strong in the face of adversity.
The story itself plays out with a “Will They?/Won’t they?” question hanging over the characters as they suffer through embarrassment and abuse to become part of the sorority they pledge to be part of. Being a Brit I wasn’t completely clued up on the whole sorority deal but having done some research, I STILL don’t know whether these young men were accepted into their sorority house at the end. The film abruptly ends after a climactic shocker during ‘Hell Night’ that made me audibly say “Was that it? Did they get in?” which ended the film on a frustrating rather than shocking note.
Its a shame really as there’s some good stuff here. The dialogue is generally good and exposition-free, Trevor Jackson is fantastic as Zurich and his inner conflict with whether to continue with the punishment or not fleshed out his character amongst the otherwise two dimensional characters that surround him.
The punishments are brutal, well shot and the tense score generally enhances these scenes. There’s some good stuff to take from the film but the abrupt ending and, again perhaps its just me, but a general lack of empathy toward the characters made it hard to really care about these characters. After all, these people are doing this voluntarily which means I constantly found myself questioning what makes it so important for these characters to go through this. Without that understanding beyond “to be part of the brotherhood”, I did find it difficult to empathise with anyone other than Zurich
Overall, ‘Burning Sands’ is a missed opportunity. The camera work, dialogue and acting are all on point here but the story ends far too abruptly, leaving way too many questions unanswered at the end to look past. Despite being a solid look at the effects of ‘hazing’, the film ultimately fails in the areas that matter and that, unfortunately, brings the film down from being the solid film it so easily could have been.