It happened a few years ago. I traveled with my wife to an island in Thailand with other guys we met. We set out on a short route through the woods that should end at some outstanding beach. Very quickly, we were left behind. “Guys? Are you in here?” we called aloud. There was silence, except for some birds that must have laughed at us. “They must have moved on. Let’s increase the pace,” my wife said. “I think we should try this shortcut,” I suggested, ignoring all the warnings I’d heard in horror movies and the fact that we might run into murderous Thai cannibals.
We deviated a little from the route, and suddenly we saw it: Something that looked like water and sand, which sadly was the only way to pass. “Isn’t that quicksand?” my wife asked. “No! It is just mud, for sure,” I answered in a haughty voice. “Trust me. I’ve seen enough horror movies. I think I can recognize quicksand.” My wife hesitated, and I volunteered to step first in the mud. And then it happened. One of my feet went into the sand, then the other. A few meters later, I got out of the puddle, which was indeed not quicksand. I was safe and sound, but my shoes were slightly less so. They got dirty, and cleaning them took work.
There are horror movies that play on our deepest and most common fears. Some of them seem almost universal, like fear of death, although on a general level, everyone has their worries. Some people are afraid of heights, while others are afraid of closed places. Some people are so scared of animals that look threatening, like sharks or snakes, while others are relatively innocent animals (for example, fear of dogs). Of course, there are hundreds of other types of anxiety, some of which we wrote about and will write more about in the future.
If we were to make a list of common fears, the fear of quicksand would likely appear low on the list. Nevertheless, you can count on horror films to show us how this fear can also be done for reasons, and even entire films – including the movie in whose honor we decided to write this review (with the surprising name “Quicksand”), which may make your brain drown in helplessness.
What Is Quicksand?
Let’s start with some simple definitions regarding the questions you may ask: Is quicksand real? How does quicksand works? Where is quicksand found? And is it so dangerous?
At a very general level, Quicksand is water sand (meaning, sand saturated with water). It is usually formed due to rising water from some underground location with sand, when most of the time, that sand is near a sea, river, lake, or another water source. This meeting with the water causes the sand grains to rise and float. This sand reacts quickly to the forces exerted on it, such as pressure and weight, which may result in the person sinking in it, having difficulty getting out, and even dropping more and more.
So can quicksand kill You? In reality, the person will probably float on top of the sand because the density of the sand is greater than that of the human body, so all those horror scenarios of a person completely disappearing under the mud if a rescue does not arrive within a few seconds, are essentially a reasonably common screenplay trick. Still, there are some dangers in quicksand. Like a vortex in the sea, a person trying to force his way out of quicksand may sink deeper and deeper into it precisely due to the same reaction to the pressure the body exerts. The drowning person may tire very quickly, as the expected stress may make it difficult for him to keep his head above the sand. In a theoretical situation, a person stuck in the sand without being able to extricate himself may dry out or starve.
Imagine a situation where the quicksand is in an area full of dangers. If you have quicksand near the sea, there is a danger that the person who enters the trap will drown: not from the sand itself, but from the sea or lake water that may rise during high tide. One of the places known for this danger is Morecambe Bay in the UK, with its narrow and shallow beach and the fact that the current here is significant and swift.
If we take another extreme example where the quicksand is in the middle of the jungle, the person may find himself attacked by terrifying animals, for instance, a giant snake that will try to strangle him to death. It may sound strange to you, but it is precisely part of the film’s plot, which we have gathered here.
How To Get Out Of Quicksand?
We didn’t encounter many cases where a person sank to death in quicksand, and Google search also didn’t give us details about quicksand deaths per year, or even is has anyone dies from quicksand. There were some known cases in recent years, however, when most of the time we got a happy ending: For example, with this dude getting rescued after being buried up in a quicksand for about four hours.
The danger here exists, although it is less dramatic than what we are used to in the various movies – especially if you know what to do and avoid. The first recommendation in the list of how to survive in quicksand actions, as mentioned, is to stay as calm as possible, even though it is a stressful situation of helplessness. In horror movies, the person stuck in quicksand will most likely be in the heart of the wilderness, without any ability to communicate with the outside world.
Such scenarios can also happen in reality, but there is a high probability that someone can help you and pull you out of the sand. You can remove a person from this mess using all those items that we have come to know in movies, such as ropes, solid branches, a chain of clothes, and so on. It is highly recommended to only travel a little in areas where no living soul passes, not only due to the danger of the quicksand.
In other situations, the main challenge is to stop this quicksand sinking, so that the weight can be more evenly on the surface, and we can get out. Without going too much into the laws of physics, in situations where the difficulty is that our surface area is small, the goal will be to increase it by lying on the sand. If you are standing, spread your arms and legs wide to increase the surface area and distribute the weight, reducing the chances of sinking. Lie gently and slowly on top of the sand surface to improve balance, and move your legs slowly – in a circular or side-to-side motion – to loosen them. If the flooded area is not too wide, it is possible to roll to the sides to a dry place or swim out, just as recommended in the case of a sea vortex.
If you realize that these basic actions do not help, remaining as passive as possible and trying to call for rescue is essential.
Quicksand In Movies
Like many other dangers, even in the case of quicksand, the image you get through the big or small screen is more dangerous than in reality. The description of a person who sinks entirely in the sand in seconds is, as mentioned, not very realistic, but it is excellent raw material for a tense scene:
- The tangible danger.
- The race against the hourglass (literally).
- The possibility of basing it on the classic formula of the last minute rescue appeared at the beginning of cinema (the films of Griffith).
- The struggle of man against the forces of nature, which is a part of many survival films.
Such scenes of quicksand deaths or last minute rescues still exist in cinema, even if not on a large scale compared to the past. In 2010, for example, an article suggested that almost 3% of films featured scenes of people sinking in sand, ash, or clay. The fear of quicksand was more common than, with or without connection to the appearances of quicksand in movies. Today we have other and more tangible worries to deal with.
Nevertheless, it is possible to point to some particularly memorable scenes starring quicksand. As you can see, these are mainly action or fantasy films with quicksand scenes, some of them are epics. “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “The Princess Bride” (1987), “Blazing Saddles” (1974), “The Neverending Story” (1984), “Jumanji” (1995), “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008) and “Star Wars – Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker”). As you can see from these examples, these are relatively short scenes, which form one part of the heroes’ survival efforts in the face of a long list of dangers, in nature or outside of it.
In this regard, the sequel “Escape Room – Tournament Of Champions,” which simply placed too many puzzles and dangers too fast, also includes one scene starring beach quicksand. In this horror mystery film, six survivors of previous escape rooms are forced to play another deadly game orchestrated by a mysterious organization called Minos. They have to solve puzzles and clues in various rooms designed to kill them. One of the rooms is a beach-themed room with sand that turns into quicksand when water is poured into it.
“Prey,” The prequel to the “Predator,” was one of the best horror movies of 2022 in our opinion. The film revolves around Naru (the superb Amber Midthunder), a Comanche girl dreaming about becoming a hunter. Before facing the alien creature, she has to deal with herself and the hazards of the jungle. In one effective moment, known as Prey quicksand scene, she uses her wisdom to escape a pretty complex situation.
Quicksand As A Metaphor For… Something
Of course, we are not referring here to the texts that use the phrase “quicksand” as a metaphor for all kinds of things that probably happen below the surface and draw the main characters to them or something like that.
A well-known example of recent years is the Swedish series of the same name from 2019, which is shown on Netflix, and deals with a tragedy at a school in Stockholm, with a heroine who is accused of murder and in the mystery of which all kinds of secrets and intrigues are revealed. There is also a movie from 2003 with the same name, starring Michael Keaton and Michael Caine, which deals with a banker who goes to Monaco and is up to his neck in trouble. He is accused of murder and has to flee for his life, while he will probably discover all kinds of secrets and intrigues.
Here is the trailer for “Quicksand” by Netflix:
Of course, quicksand can also be a metaphor for love or marital relationships. Don’t even think about quicksand porn, which exists for some reason, but songs that use the term to express some things. For example, couples are drifting down together and can only survive if they hold hands or something like that. Hopefully, this is the last time you’ll see a Britney Spears song on this site.
A Whole Movie About Quicksand? Not Such A Good Idea (For Now)
Can quicksand also hold an entire movie and not just a tense scene – at least seemingly – lasting a few seconds or minutes? If you ask the creators of the film “Quicksand” by Shudder, the answer is yes.
The film is about couples who are in the process of divorce. The woman (Carolina Gaitan, who we can remember for dubbing the character of Pepe – that nurse who influences the weather in “Encanto”) is a doctor, who arrives with her husband (Alan Hwako), also a doctor, to Colombia for some conference. They decide that the best thing for them is to go on a natural hike and even take a shortcut in a place so dangerous that no locals avoid it at any cost. They go on a trip alone and find themselves in the heart of “Las Arenas” after escaping from a local criminal. The wife enters quicksand, and for some reason, so does the husband.
From there will begin a journey against time and the dangers of the jungle, including some giant snake that is angry that the woman dropped his egg (huh?). The result is far from convincing because the film fails to maintain tension or produce compelling or scary scenes, the protagonists make some ridiculous decisions, and there is much to improve at the level of dialogue and acting. Nevertheless, here we got an entire movie about quicksand.
We would not close the door on the quicksand films, despite the problems that appeared here. With characters we care about, compelling tension scenes that convey the characters’ helplessness, and some scares, it might be possible to create decent films, as we saw in the case of heroes stuck in a high place, in the water, underground, or anywhere else. Because, you see, sand can be pretty scary.