The Reel Review


The fate of a missing outdoor enthusiast and video blogger is detailed in this pseudo-documentary horror/mystery set in the Northern Nevada desert. The slow burn thriller bears striking similarities to the story of real-life Nevada hiker Kenny Veach, who disappeared in November 2014 under mysterious circumstances.

Eric Mencis in Horror in the High Desert

Opting to tell a fictional tale rather than a straight up documentary about the actual missing hiker may at first seem a curious choice, but it gives writer/director Dutch Marich the ability to flesh out the spookier content of his horror/mystery and also avoid tricky legal issues.

Led by a charming Eric Mencis as the hiker, the small cast convincingly sells the realism of the story. Marich’s shoestring budget blend of one-on-one interviews, an impressively spooky score and hiker “found footage” is all so surprisingly authentic, it is easy to forget that this film is fiction and not an actual crime documentary.

The spooky cabin in Horror in the High Desert.

The only real drawback to Horror in the High Desert is that the action builds VERY slowly in its first half, finally amping up in a nerve-wracking third act, when our hiker, cyberbullied by some doubting vlog followers, reluctantly returns to the spooky, remote desert cabin that previously had caused him such terror. And of course, he does it at night. For those with the patience to endure the film’s slow start, the unsettling first-person point-of-view night vision builds palpable tension and dread in the finalé, making the film an apt entry to the genre of found footage horror led by its pioneer, The Blair Witch Project.


Horror in the High Desert is set in tiny Ruth, Nevada (population 440), where writer/director Dutch Marich grew up and is working on a sequel.

Horror in the High Desert is believed to be inspired by the real-life disappearance of hiker Kenny Veach, who on November 10, 2014, went on an expedition in search of a mysterious, M-shaped cave he had found on a previous hike in the Nevada desert, never to be seen again. He had said the strange cave caused tremendous anxiety when he briefly entered. Above is a YouTube video Veach posted about his claimed cave discovery prior to his disappearance.

• The film’s star, Eric Mencis, is Executive Director of the Western Railway Museum located between Oakland and Sacramento, California.


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