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HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT (2021)
Directed/written by Dutch Marich.
Starring Suziey Block, Eric Mencis, David Morales, Tonya Williams Ogden, Errol Porter
An outdoorsman named Gary Hinge (Eric Mencis) mysteriously disappears in the Nevada desert. Despite the exhaustive efforts of a news reporter (played by ENTRANCE’s Suziey Block), a private investigator (played by David Morales), his roommate (Errol Porter) and his sister (Tonya Williams Ogden), there are very few leads to his whereabouts until a break in the case provides terrifying video evidence of his last night.
The filmmaker Dutch Marich, who delivered the bone-chilling REAPTOWN last year, brings us the part mockumentary/part found footage film, HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT—an exercise in patience with a satisfying payoff. A major, major portion of this film is simply talking heads talking their heads off about how they know Gary, how great Gary is, and hypothesizing what might have happened to him. There are two major breaks in the case, which expand the mystery and punch up the plot, but for the most part, this is a very slow lead in to a potent ending.
The issue here is that everyone is speaking from a highly dramatic level. Each cast member does feel authentic, almost too much so, which is going to add to the tedium for those less-patient of viewers. Luckily, each break in the case is intriguing and opens up the story for deeper questions. This is what kept me with HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT all the way through, but I can imagine some won’t make it to the end of this trek. The acting is fine. I always wondered what happened to Suziey Block, who was excellent in the simplistic stalker film ENTRANCE. She shows up here as an earnest reporter dedicated to getting to the bottom of the case and her performance is one of the most genuine. Tonya Williams Ogden is also quite convincing as Gary’s sister, though her pauses in line delivery definitely add to the “get on with it” feeling I had as the movie went on.
The final moments are terrifying. Partially because of the ominous lead-in and buildup by the interviewees. The footage depicting Gary’s final night is hand held, shaky cam, but absolutely effective on both a sound and visual level. Simple night-cam lighting, music being played backwards in the background, and a strangely shaped figure in the darkness are all it takes when put together as the right combination to deliver a true edge-of-your-seaty conclusion that left me pretty satisfied.
The final crawl promises that a team of investigators have a lead on where the final moments of HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT. IMDB promises that a sequel is in post-production, and it looks as if actress Suziey Block is returning (yay!). While I hope this sequel moves at a slightly brisker pace and more thrills and revelations occur in the film’s bulk, if it is able to capture the intensity of the final moments of HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT, I’m all game to venture on this perilous journey again.