It’s with sadness we kiss goodnight to our wonderful month of horror movies, safe in the knowledge we’ll no doubt watch at least one next month and then the month after that. Because you can’t keep a set of spooky bitches confined to just one holiday.
This week we spend time in the high desert searching for a missing person and ponder the eternal question: “Why are you going back, you bloody idiot?”
HIGH IN THE HIGH DESERT (2021)
No one just disappears.
In July 2017, an experienced outdoor enthusiast vanished in Northern Nevada while on an outdoor excursion. After an extensive search, he was never located. On the three-year anniversary of his disappearance, friends and loved ones recall the events leading up to his vanishing, and for the first time, speak about the horrifying conclusion of his fate.
Genre: Horror, Thriller ∙ IMDB user rating: 5.4
My score: 2.5/5 ∙ Runtime: 82 mins
Director: Dutch Marich ∙ Stars: Suziey Block, Eric Mencis, Tonya Williams Ogden
This pseudo-doc focuses on the mysterious disappearance of hiker and train enthusiast Gary Hinge, a loner with an exceptionally high IQ. At the end of 2017, Gary took a trip to an undisclosed part of the Great Basin Desert in Nevada – and never returned. Panicked when, two days after he was supposed to get back, he still hadn’t arrived home, his room mate Simon (Errol Porter) alerts Gary’s big sister Beverly.
By the time Beverly speaks to the authorities, a week has passed and there’s still no sign of her brother. Local and state police search the area with the help of volunteers and park rangers until they locate Gary’s truck – but something doesn’t sit right. Where’s Gary and why is he parked up in this spot of all places? Unfortunately, Bev approaches a lot of the investigation with all the grace of a reversing dump truck and manages to mess up a fair amount of evidence, including deleting a video that may or may not have helped them.
After several days of vigorous searching, the rescue attempt for Gary is terminated and Bev hires private investigator William ‘Bill’ Salerno (David Morales) to stay on the case. Meanwhile, local reporter Gal Roberts also has her teeth in the story and manages to convince her editor to keep her on too, so Gary’s disappearance doesn’t become just another cold case.
Thanks to the above, some eery evidence is uncovered from the scene of Gary’s truck, while Bill searches his social media and learns some very interesting facts about our protagonist. It transpires that Gary has a large online following and an alias called “Scorpion Sam” via his blog, where he shares video diaries and photographs from his trips. Unbeknownst to his family and friends, Gary/Scorpion Sam has over 500k followers – some of whom have theories about what really happened to him.
In fact you could say, via the medium of cyber bullying, some of his ‘fans’ are indirectly responsible for this whole sorry situation.
Through Gary’s socials, Bill and Beverly piece together a picture of what likely happened and it’s honestly a doozy. Could the remote cabin he accidentally stumbled across on a previous jaunt be the key to his vanishing? When – weeks later a group of hikers find a backpack containing a severed hand still holding a video camera – it certainly seems likely.
But where’s the rest of Gary and why would anyone want to harm him? I realise this review is a little more cryptic than usual, but I don’t want to give anything away. I feel it’s probably better to go in blind and enjoy the ride with this one.
I love the set-up of this mockumentary, which could probably pass as the real deal at points. I think my biggest criticism is that the acting is shoddy at times and the ending left with me more questions than answers.
It is unsettling and a couple of times I really jumped, but the slow build isn’t worth the pay off for me. By no means is this a shitty film, it’s actually quite effective and definitely builds tension well on a low budget. I just wanted a teensy bit more from the climax.
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