Horror in the High Desert


Is This the Right Movie?

Main Cast: Eric Mencis, Tonya Williams Ogden

Director: Dutch Marich

Wow, talk about NOT living up to the hype.  Granted, in this case “the hype” was an offhand comment on a horror movie review podcast where the episode is about a completely different movie.  In an episode of BLOODY GOOD HORROR, the host, Eric, mentioned this movie, HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT on Tubi that scared him so bad he told his girlfriend he wasn’t brushing his teeth alone.

Well, I have to find this movie!

Found it.  Watched it.  Brushed my teeth that night just fine.  By myself.

HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT is a mockumentary/found footage movie from writer/director Dutch Marich (BLEED OUT, THE DARK HAND), filmed during the COVID shutdown and released in 2021.

The story tells of the 2017 disappearance of “outdoor enthusiast” Gary Hinge (Eric Mencis) in the deserts of Nevada.

The story unfolds through interviews with Gary’s former roommate Simon (Errol Porter), his sister Beverly (Tonya Williams Ogden), television reporter Gal Roberts (Suziey Block, Monk, Masters of Sex), and a private investigator, Bill (David Morales, THE DARK HAND) hired by Gary’s sister.  Gary was an explorer and amateur survivalist who liked to go out into the wilderness with minimal supplies and spend a few days in nature.  On this particular trip, he’s two days past the day he said he would return, but he never specified where he was going, so the search area is too vast.

Eventually his truck is found 55 miles away from the last place his cell phone could be traced to, and the fingerprints on the steering wheel belong to someone else.  That someone else walked barefoot back into the desert after abandoning the truck.

At this point, the search has stalled and the police don’t know where to go with their investigation.  That’s when they discover Gary’s survivalist blog and see the video he had posted—the video his sister accidentally deleted and that showed Gary’s unnerved reaction to something he’d seen in the desert on his last trip.

There are comments from viewers that Gary should have recorded it, that he’s lying to get views, that they want proof.  Gary’s final post is that he’s not going to reveal the location of what he found, but he’s going to go back out to get proof for his blog.

For what it was, HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT is well made, I guess, and the acting is about what you’d expect from this kind of movie—although Tonya Williams Ogden as sister Beverly, if her goal was to be a totally unlikable character, she nailed it.  The pace is a bit slow, pulling that taffy to its breaking point to tell this story before we get to the final bit of the plot, which I’m not going to spoil.

For me, if I hadn’t had the pre-hype about how effective the movie was with a longtime horror fan, I think my experience here would have been different.  I went into this movie waiting for that big moment, the HOLY CRAP that was gonna make it worthwhile, but I just never got it.  I think I know the part of the movie that scared him so much, but I was watching it at 7:00 on a Thursday while folding laundry and it just didn’t hit me like I had hoped it would.

It’s not a bad movie by any means, it just didn’t scare me, not even a little bit, not for a second.  HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT isn’t breaking any new ground here, there is nothing here that takes the mockumentary/found footage genre to new heights.  PARANORMAL ACTIVITY it ain’t.

What it IS is about 82 minutes of movie and when it’s over you go back to your life and maybe in a week you remember you watched it, maybe you don’t.

But, again, that might all be because of the expectations with which I went into it.  If this was just a movie I saw while scrolling through and decided to give it a shot because I love found footage movies so much—I really do—then who knows what my reaction might have been.

For what it’s worth, there’s a sequel, and I DO want to see it, whether it continues this story of Gary Hinge and what he found, or tells a different story, I’m all in either way.  This one might not have been the terrorfest I’d hoped for, but Marich has made a movie that held my attention and makes me want to see more from him.

Hell, maybe I misremembered the title and watched the wrong movie!?! HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT (and its sequel) are currently streaming on TUBI.

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