The characters are not the only things "Stranded" in debuting writer-directors Hughes and Sandra Martin's shaky wartime drama-cum-supernatural thriller.

The characters are not the only things “Stranded” in debuting writer-directors Hughes and Sandra Martin’s shaky wartime drama-cum-supernatural thriller. Set at the height of the French-Algerian conflict, pic follows a platoon of Gallic grunts fighting off sandstorms, enemy combatants, village witch doctors and a horde of highly unconvincing CGI monsters. But most of all, they’re just fighting among themselves, and what could have been a post-colonial “The Hills Have Eyes 2″ soon becomes a fit of overacted hokum that offers few genuine scares. Following a minuscule local release, “Stranded” will find its oasis on Euro homevid.

Army cameraman Michel (Gregoire LePrine-Ringuet) and his squad of gung-ho Frenchies roam the Sahara to retrieve a top-secret briefcase. But what they encounter are half-invisible (or poorly rendered … it isn’t exactly clear), mind-controlling beasts known as the “Djinns,” who, as one local savant thankfully explains, are “extremely dangerous creatures.” What’s even more dangerous is all the shouting among the soldiers themselves, as the narrative slides into visual-effects vaudeville, with each protag exorcising his own combat-induced trauma. Shadowy widescreen lensing and impressive desert locations only mildly compensate for everything else.

Stranded

France

Production

An SND Groupe M6 release of a Delante Films, Kare Prods. production, in association with La Banque Postale Image 2, with participation of Canal Plus, CineCinema, CNC. (International sales: SND, France.) Produced by Fabrice Goldstein, Caroline Adriani, Antoine Rein. Executive producers, Souad Lamriki, Benedicte Bellocq. Directed, written by Hughes Martin, Sandra Martin.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Pierre Cottereau; editor, Nicolas Sarkissian; music, Siegfried Canto; production designer, Jean-Marc Tran Tan Ba; costume designer, Emma Bellocq. Reviewed at UGC Orient Express 1, Paris, Aug. 17, 2010. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Gregoire LePrince-Ringuet, Thierry Fremont, Said Taghmaoui, Cyril Raffaelli, Aurelien Wiik, Stephane Debac, Matthias Van Khache, Gregory Quidel, Emmanuel Bonami.
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