6/10 Yet another Netflix original film I had never heard of, “Burning Sands” has some great aspects to it but also could have been retitled “Hazing: The Movie”. A group of black college students have to survive Hell week/Hell night to get into a fraternity. That is all the film is about and not much else. There is some really strong acting from the ensemble here and not a weak link in the acting chain. The tone is well established as you will feel uneasy watching these young men get hazed while wondering how far the fraternity brothers are willing to push the pledges. Some humiliation, yelling and mild hazing is all fine and dandy but to see the hazing go to extreme levels of physical assault and abuse to the point where these men are getting badly injured is tough to stomach. As someone who had absolutely zero desire to join a frat while attending film school, I can’t speak on behalf of how many frats take their initiations to the extreme and how many keep things mild and don’t cross into these levels of danger. I would be curious to know if the writers/director created this film off of their own experiences or not. As a former Marine, I was definitely hazed and witnessed hazing early on in the Corps but the military is far different than a college environment. The dialogue felt natural which was refreshing since so many high school or college set films have complete caricatures of how young people speak and behave. The pacing worked well too as the film was constantly moving and didn’t overstay its welcome. Seeing how other aspects of life outside of the fraternity pledging were deeply impacted (in a negative way) was a strong touch to put into the film. As for the negatives, there are a couple decent sized ones. First of all, a lot of the subplots are either underdeveloped or don’t get closure. A romantic subplot is ended abruptly, a subplot with a professor started off strong but fizzled by the time it ended and a subplot with the fraternity dean ends on a sour note that felt cut short. The other big problem is the ending. After an hour and a half of nonstop toxic masculinity, seeing people suffer from the consequences of the actions that unfold throughout the film or finding out what happens next would have been wise to include. Instead, the film ends quickly and on a down note. Even just a few more scenes, maybe ten minutes worth of screen time could have benefitted the film. The college students already in the frat get no character development and almost all of them just basically become the villains but with no personalities outside of their enjoyment of hazing. The film’s purpose is definitely to show how damaging and toxic hazing can be and how we shouldn’t be willing to put ourselves through abuse for something so insignificant in life as joining a fraternity. While the film definitely gets its point across very well, an expansion of the story and development of its characters could have elevated this higher than the slightly above average haze fest which it is.
#HazedAndConfused / #PushedToThePledge / #ErnestGoesToSchool2 / #SteveHarrisWasARealDeanStealer / #ThatDarnFrat / #TheSquareRootOfEvil