Thursday, June 8, 2023

In short: Horror in the High Desert (2021)

Warning: there will be spoilers, because the film is so slight, there’d be nothing to talk about otherwise

High Desert hiker - and as it will turn out vlogger - Gary Hinge (Eric Mencis) disappears on one of his excursions. The film purports to be a documentary about the event, so eighty percent or so of it consist of duelling talking heads interviews with Gary’s handful of friends and family, and a very slow beat for beat walkthrough of a rather uneventful investigations.

Eventually, it will turn out that Gary’s disappearance has something to do with a creepy cabin deep in the High Desert, and the backwoods mutant person (or is it?) living there. Since the final piece of film we get to see has been found in a camera held in Gary’s cut off hand, things have apparently ended badly for him.

Until we get to all that excitement and the somewhat effective found footage bit surrounding it, Dutch Marich’s lockdown-produced movie is a bit of a slog, unfortunately. I do like the fake documentary format for POV horror, because it makes exposition flow more naturally and can help filmmakers cut out unnecessary lengths, but in this case, too much of what the talking heads blabber about is of no actual pertinence to anything that’s going on. It also often doesn’t feel terribly well thought through in terms of logic or dramatic impact. There is, for example, no good reason to make it a surprise to most of the characters that Gary was blogging about his wilderness exploits apart from dragging the minor mystery of what’s going on out. There’s also too little of Gary’s actual footage in comparison to the talking heads, and very little even tiny creepiness happens for the first fifty minutes of the film or so. Some of this can probably explained by the way this had to be produced as a low budget movie during the pandemic, but understanding this doesn’t make the movie more entertaining to watch.

It’s a bit of a shame as well, for the last fifteen minutes or so of Horror in the High Desert are perfectly decent POV horror.

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