Horror in the High Desert (2021) | Explanation, Recommendations & Spoilers | Film Review
Horror in the High Desert (2021) is an American pseudo-documentary found-footage horror film. The film is written, produced and directed by Dutch Marich. Horror in the High Desert (2021) stars Eric Mencis, Tonya Williams-Ogden, Errol Porter, David Morales and Suziey Block. The film was distributed by Indie Rights Movies and released on March 27, 2021. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and available to watch on Tubi.
In the beginning of the film, we are informed that Gary Hinge (Eric Mencis) went missing in July of 2017. Through interviews with his sister, Beverly Hinge (Tonya Williams-Ogden), his roommate Simon Rodger (Errol Porter), the private investigator Beverly hired, William "Bill" Salerno, and a journalist named Gal Roberts (Suziey Block), we learn that Gary enjoyed hiking in the vast wilderness, exploring by himself for quite a bit of time alone. Gary worked for a company mapping out locations for hunters and made a good living while doing what he loved.
We learn that Beverly was concerned about Gary hiking and exploring alone because he liked to employ the survivalist method where he took only what he needed when he went out. However, Gary often enjoyed hiking in desolate areas where there were several dangers; abandoned mines, rattlesnakes, no water sources, little food, etc..
Towards the end of July in 2017, Gary told his roommate Simon he was going on a two week hike and wanted to leave his dog with Simon, something he never did. Simon, confused about why Gary would leave his dog behind, agreed, but questioned Gary's motives when interviewed after Gary went missing.
Two weeks went by and Gary didn't come back to retrieve his dog from Simon. Simon, needing to get on a flight, called Beverly after waiting a couple of days for Gary and told her what was going on. Concerned, Beverly called the police to try to figure out what happened to her brother since this behavior was entirely unlike him.
The police found Gary's truck abandoned in an area he never went to and would never have gone to, according to Beverly and Simon. Furthering the mystery, several bare footprints were found next to and on the truck, as well as several unidentified fingerprints inside and outside the vehicle, eluding to the possibility that Gary did not go missing on his own and someone possibly moved his truck to throw police off from what really happened.
After locating his truck, the police decided to initiate a massive search for Gary. However, after a few days they decided that the likelihood of Gary actually being alive when they found him would be very slim due to the harsh climate and Gary's preference of carrying very limited supplies when he hiked and called off the search.
We learn that the fingerprints found in and around the truck do not belong to Gary, but the police are unable to match them in a national database, which essentially stops them from being able to investigate further.
As a result of the case going cold, the media stopped reporting about Gary's disappearance and Beverly subsequently hired a private investigator named Bill Salerno to keep investigating Gary's disappearance. The rest of the film delves deeper into what might have happened to Gary and the mysterious footage recovered when Gary's belongings were finally found.
If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Wrong Turn (2003)
The Descent (2005)
The Levenger Tapes (2013)
It Follows (2014)
The Ritual (2017)
The Empty Man (2020)
*Discussion contains spoilers
Several weeks after the case went cold, a couple of hikers who were camping in a desolate area woke up to find a backpack placed on a shovel they had left outside their tent at their campsite. Curious, they opened the backpack and discovered several personal items of Gary's, as well as a camcorder that had a severed hand attached to it.
Well, um, that's great. Great news for Gary. Maybe he's still alive and has a hook for a hand now, but I'm not optimistic about Gary's fate anymore. I mean, I'm realistic too, I wasn't sitting here thinking Gary was living his best life in a tree somewhere, that he said, fuck it, I hate that dog and left his furry buddy with Simon and wanted to live in a vast wonderland a.k.a. shithole without food and water, but I was like, maybe he fell in an abandoned mine or got bit by something horrible, but is generally okay.
Nope, nope, nopity-nope. Gary probably didn't hack his own hand and wrist off, so that means someone else did it and put it in his backpack. Then they brought it to a campsite in the middle of the night and placed it where the hikers would immediately see it, wanting their disgusting trophy to be discovered. After the hikers brought the bag o' disgust to the police, the police tested the hand, confirmed it was Gary and also found that his hand was hacked off while he was still alive. Even better. You know, better than I hoped.
Here I was, hoping maybe Gary got into a slap fight with a bear or mountain lion based on a misunderstanding about Gary's last Luna bar, but no. Hand hacked off. Placed in a bag. Truck driven to another location to throw police off. Bears don't do that shit. Wait, maybe they do. I mean, I've heard those stories about bears that do cocaine and get drunk from beer. Anything's possible with a bear these days. Those fuckers are smart.
Bill, the private investigator, discovers that Gary had a vlog that no one knew about and he had about 50,000 followers. Gary never revealed his name on the vlog, preferring to go by the moniker, Scorpion Sam. Apparently, while out in the wilderness, Gary turned over a rock and got stung by a scorpion and had to wait for medical care until he hiked out of whatever shithole he was hiking in at the time.
I also like to come up with internet names based on traumatic events in my life. Like, one time I was swimming in the ocean and a crab swam up and clamped down on my pinky toe like it knew I had killed and eaten his mom when I was like 12 years old. Like it had a fucking vendetta. I now use internet names like FuckingCrabWithAVendetta2487 and ThatBullshitCrabSeveredMyPinkyToe98.
Anyway, in the vlogs Gary likes to pretend he knows everything about survivalist hiking (he didn't know shit about getting his hand hacked off and going missing though) and he likes to teach others about how to survive in the wilderness. I'm thinking no one is going to take someone seriously about survival when they go missing and their hand gets hacked off, but that's just me. We learn that most of the vlogs are pretty normal except for the last vlogs, in which Gary relates he had a creepy experience while hiking/camping.
He tells his subscribers about how when he last went hiking, he started to smell smoke when he was out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe Gary is having a stroke, but more likely Gary is around someone's camp or something more mysterious. Curious, Gary walks towards the smell and comes upon what I can only describe as "The Creepy Cobbled-Together Shit Shack in the Middle of a Shithole Where No One Should Live."
Gary described the experience to his subscribers and told them that he saw that smoke was coming out of a pipe, was overcome with a sense of dread and didn't want to go anywhere near the shed. Apparently, some genius put a pipe to use as a chimney in the house o' sticks and various wilderness items such as rocks and lizard poop and Gary, seeing this horror up close, said, nope and got the fuck out. No shit.
I mean, aside from the outstanding stupidity used to engineer a pipe for a chimney (looked like a main drain metal pipe to me) in a house of sticks and lizard shit, who would live in there for real? How do they survive? On the blood of dumbass hikers like Gary? In that movie Wrong Turn (2003), that's pretty much what they did. I'm sure they ate deer and other wildlife too, but in their hut o' guts and terror, it looked like they mainly ate people.
Gary tells his subscribers that he didn't take any photos or footage of what he saw because he didn't have his camera and didn't have his gun with him, so he went back to his tent and stayed there until he could hike out. Um. What. I would've packed up my shit and moved as far away as I could. I mean, Gary seems pretty stupid overall. I like Gary and I hope he's okay, but I've watched Into the Wild (2007) and read the book and what I learned is this: Don't. Be. A. Dumbass.
Do this instead: take more shit than you need even if it makes your back spasm and you fall on your knees and cry out from the extra weight and your bones being crushed, be as educated as possible about survival and never assume you know everything, always leave detailed information about where you are going, when you will be back and a pirate map of whereabouts you will be, carry several weapons to blow fuckers away (and bears), and get the fuck out if shit is creepy.
Also, carry some way of communicating if you get stuck. My ass would get a satellite phone, personally. Something. Maybe a chip in my ass. I'm not too proud to have a chip in my ass or neck like a dog, you know, if that ever comes about.
I mean, I've read some seriously creepy shit on Reddit.com about people hiking and camping, encountering the worst kinds of creeps in state parks (in the United States) and all over the world (there's surprisingly a lot in Australia apparently, and they usually have giant gut-splitting knives).
Anyway, Gary relates this creepy experience to his subscribers and instead of validating Gary and giving his experience credence, his subscribers are all like, "Bullshiiiiiiiit, no pictures, no evidence, it's not reaaaaaaal Garrrrrrrrr-yyyyyy." See, this type of shit is why the internet sucks. It sounds like Reddit.com people to me.
To be fair, not everyone on Reddit.com is like this, but on subreddits like r/paranormal, etc., people say things like that about other's experiences. If Gary is still alive, I'd tell him this: people will believe what they want to believe, it's not up to you to convince them. People can and will attack you if they feel that their belief system is challenged, so don't take it personally.
Spoiler alert: Gary took it personally.
Gary, instead of being like, fuck you neckbeards, I hate the internet, decided he would prove what he experienced was real and went back. Went. Back. To the house o' sticks and lizard poop. The house that has probably already burned down because it was made of sticks and had a shitty chimney with no fireproofing. Plus, Gary was filled with dread upon seeing it.
I mean, what about that told Gary he needed to go back, I don't know. But, instead of relying on his own judgment and experience, Gary relied on other's feelings and, needing to get praise and validation, Gary decided he'd hike out there again and film what he saw.
So, sensible people would be like, okay, well, Gary will at least take some protection and tell someone what he's doing and where he's going, right? No. No, sadly Gary is a dumbass and told his asshole subscribers he would not reveal the location because the wilderness is dangerous and he didn't want people wandering around and trying to find it. He also didn't take his dog. He didn't tell his roommate where he was going. Or his sister. Or anyone. Didn't leave a note or pirate map. Didn't take extra supplies.
All Gary took was his camera, probably two graham crackers and a Luna bar, most likely a teeny-tiny bottle of water and two peanuts. He did pack a gun, but let me tell you, it sucks and it doesn't seem like he brought extra bullets.
We see in the last footage (recovered by the police via Gary's video camera) entitled, "Gary's Last Stand" (not really), Gary hikes out to the location and leaves "markers" on the ground. It looks a lot like the sticks and rock piles like in The Blair Witch Project (1999), but what do I know? Anyway, Gary uses some kind of (infrared/night vision?) to sneak up on the crusty hut o' terror and starts hearing the creepiest sounds, like something I imagine a witch plays at night.
Creepy witch music, like cats singing along to a harmonica (if you've ever heard that, it's not pleasant). And by "singing", I mean screeching and basically telling their owners to fuck off, but I digress.
The singing or recording goes on and on and Gary reaches the hut o' sticks and lizard shit. He turns the camera on and off, I'm assuming to save on the battery life. We don't see anything at first, but then we see something in rags or a dress or something stand up in front of the hut. It actually scared the shit out of me because it's impossible to see and it's like all of the sudden there. It was probably there the entire time and that's even creepier if you ask me.
Gary gets freaked out and moves somewhat back and we start to see what looks like an old man with a dented in head running around like a creep with a full machete in his hand, apparently looking for Gary. Gary gets chased around a bit by the guy who is obviously deformed and the guy gets a handy-dandy torch to be able to see Gary better. So Gary is either going to get torched or chopped up, great. Gary decides against getting torched or chopped up (or both) and gets out his gat.
Gary shoots at where he thinks the guy is and wastes a bunch of bullets, scared out of his mind. Gary needs to only shoot when he can see whatever it is that's coming for him. Get it together, Gary. If he runs out of battery life and/or bullets, he's completely fucked. He looks around for the markers to escape, but he apparently can't find them. So either the old man scattered his markers or he is in the wrong area or something. I mean, I could barely see them when he was pointing them out, so I don't know what he expected.
At some point the old man hacked up Gary's leg and Gary shows the camera his nasty wound. We see at the end of the tape that Gary turns and sees the dented head man right in front of him, machete raised high, about to fuck Gary's life up. I assume this is when his hand got hacked off, but since that's all the footage the police released, that's an assumption only.
The end of the film has the interviewees questioning what happened to Gary, where the hut o' horror really is and who the person was that hacked Gary up. Apparently there's a sequel coming out called Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva (2022). Maybe it will explain more about what happened to Gary.
A couple of things to note: I can't be sure, but I think there were two people out in the woods near Gary at the end. One looked like the man we saw at the end, but another looked like it could have been a woman. One person was bald and was wearing rags, but another was bald with a bandanna or scarf tied around their bald ass head and it looked like it was wearing a raggedy dress. The raggedy dress wearer didn't seem to be attacking Gary, only watching the other man and looking around for Gary.
I kept wondering if what had happened was Gary came upon someone's hut 'o lizard poop in the wilderness and he scared them. I mean, can you imagine someone sneaking up to your house one time, then coming back later with a video camera at night and filming your house? And they have a gun? I'd be like, wtf. It's possible that the two deformed bald people are husband and wife and were defending their property.
I thought about why they'd move the truck so Gary couldn't be found and also put the backpack where someone would find it and decided maybe two different people did that. Maybe the man moved the truck so no one would find them and maybe the woman wanted to leave the hut o' horror and put the backpack and camera where someone would find it so she could be discovered and be able to leave. Or the roles were reversed. Either way, that's my theory. I guess we'll see when the second movie comes out if anything is explained and if I'm right, partially right or altogether whacked.
I liked certain aspects of this movie. I felt like the interviews and actors did a great job, but I didn't like the scenes where people were reenacting things, like walking barefoot. I found it was too much like shows on Investigation Discovery and took me out of it. I also wish instead of reenactments or video to enhance what they were saying, they used footage of Gary so it would be like getting to know Gary as we watch the movie and getting closer to him before he goes missing. There was some of that included, but I felt more of it would've been effective.
I also really liked the ending and the part where the person was standing in front of the shack, as well as the creepy music, but I felt like they showed way too much of the old man and it ruined some of the creepiness. I think fleeting views and letting the viewers use their imaginations is more effective than showing too much of the "monster".
I think the film would've been so much creepier if we only saw glimpses of the person or people at the end. I will watch the sequel just to see what happens and I really hope Gary is alive, just living his life in the shack o' sticks n' horror temporarily.
Have you seen this movie? Do you want to see it? What is your theory? Do you want to see the sequel? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!