Followers found me some found footage to watch

I recently posted on social media asking what everyone’s favorite found footage films are—I offered up Exists, Hell House LLC, Quarantine, The Pyramid, and The Monster Project as mine. Several responses consisted of titles I’d never heard of, so I hunted down the ones available on streaming, making for a 4 found footage flick marathon.


As far as building an unsettling backstory goes, Horror in the High Desert does a fantastic job. However, depending on your appreciation of slow burns, you might lose patience with the mockumentary style of this one.

A majority of the film is presented in the form of interviews with friends, family, a reporter, and a detective trying to unravel the mystery behind an outdoorsman’s disappearance in Nevada. It all paints a picture of the character and his reasons for going into the wild.

We learn about his love of the outdoors, his popular vlog, and the online bullying he endured after his first trek out into the wild…which led him to go back out into the desert to prove to his viewers what he claimed to have seen the first time was real. There’s even a very specific detail in the interviews revealing that our main character was gay, landing this one on the does the gay guy die? page.

The unfolding of events was intriguing enough to keep me interested, but the final 19 minutes, when we at last see footage of what the main guy experienced, could split the opinion of found footage lovers. The premise of the footage feels to me like it was inspired by the final scene of Quarantine, when the ghoul in the attic room of the apartment could hear but not see in the dark.

In the final footage of this film, our main guy goes back to a cabin he found during his first visit, and there he hears a super creepy voice talking and calling out. The camerawork is frustrating, dragging us into Blair Witch territory with him constantly pointing it at the ground. There are also too many cuts, and they are illogical. Every time he sees the ghoul that is sort of circling his position in the woods, he cuts the camera off! It naturally adds suspense because we expect a jump scare each time he turns it back on, but the night vision of the camera is supposedly the only thing allowing him to see the danger pursuing him, so turning it off makes no sense.

Quite honestly, the final freeze frame (indicative of found footage films) is not shocking or scary at all, and in the end it seems impossible that this decrepit thing that was chasing him would be capable of doing some of the things it supposedly did, such as moving his truck and planting his backpack in a different location. Even so, this one definitely delivered on the creep factor.


Rather than focusing on the story of the first film—such as having a bunch of new vloggers show up to try to find out what happened to the guy from the first movie—the sequel focuses on a year later and suggests that the ghoul the first guy disturbed in the wilderness has now started to venture out into the desolate, desert town nearby.

To create a sense of the ghoul terrorizing the town, there are interviews with locals who experienced near encounters, including a couple that owns a farm and a man renting a house in an isolated area.

There are also two separate, main stories presented. First is the inexplicable disappearance of a college student from her locked trailer home. The other is the story of a young woman who disappeared after her car broke down on a desert road at night.

The two tales are creepy, but there are so many instances in which it doesn’t make sense that there would be a camera on hand to film. Most notable is what seems to be footage shot by the ghoul! It’s perhaps the creepiest footage in the whole movie, but it’s giving the ghoul even more human capabilities than it had in the first movie. It seems this sequel is really trying to expand on the mythos of this creep while delivering a body count, yet offers no explanations once again in order to leave us with the promise of a third installment.

Most surprising is the big encounter moment at the end. It focuses on a search party member who definitely gets into a Quarantine situation. He’s trapped in a mining building with the ghoul but doesn’t even notice it, because for some reason the camera he is carrying is picking up footage with night vision, yet he’s not seeing any of it.

He spends the whole scene groping around in the dark, never realizing the ghoul is lurking nearby. As spooky as the scene is, it’s shockingly anti-climactic considering the kind of money shot we expect at the end of found footage films.


This is the kind of movie that reminds me of the most crucial thing you have to ask yourself before watching most found footage films….is it worth sitting through all the bullshit for over an hour just to get to some chills and thrills in the last fifteen minutes? Problem is you don’t know until you actually do it.

The Conspiracy is so not my thing. I have way too much anxiety about the state of the world right now to sit through an hour of having New World Order conspiracies laid out for me by two mock filmmakers doing a film on issues that are even more relevant now than they were when the film was made over a decade ago.

Our pair interviews a popular conspiracy theorist, who then disappears. So they begin digging deeper into the dude’s conspiracy about a secret organization of rich white men in hopes of finding out what became of him.

Would you believe the filmmakers eventually end up in the woods to witness some sort of cult ritual dealing with the indoctrination of young white men in masks?

The scariest part of this mostly non-horror found footage film is the idea of suddenly finding you really have dug yourself too far into a conspiracy better left alone. It’s chilling for a few moments at the very end while also being a very typical found footage horror sequence.


As a writer, my ultimate goal is to make my gay horror novels as comprehensible as possible (I think I mostly succeed), so it’s hard for me to sit through a movie—a 110-minute found footage movie no less—to find that someone decided to write and film an absolutely incoherent story.

Is it a metaphor for religion? Is it an acid trip film? Is it the tale of one man going mad and killing all his friends? Are there really hideous creatures? I have no idea.

So how is the plot presented? A bunch of memory cards are found with footage of a group of friends heading into the desert to camp (yep, another desert found footage film).

The first part of the film is like all these artsy, bohemian stoners just getting high on life. Lots of singing and posing for the camera. Then they go to the desert and do lots of exploring during the day. It’s all very sensory—almost like you’re listening to one of those white noise apps in order to relax and sleep easy.

At night in their tent they are haunted by what sounds like fireworks. Then everything goes dark, everyone runs and screams, and we’re left alone in the desert for 50 more minutes with the whimpering cameraman.

Footage jumps from day to night. There’s lots of blood. Night footage consists of a tiny circle of light in the center of the screen, usually capturing something red, so we have no idea what we’re witnessing. Each time the cameraman stumbles upon one of his friends in terrible shape, the footage just cuts to daytime again and he’s alone, no friends in sight.

He also witnesses flashing dots of light in the dark. He encounters squealing eels that come out of holes in rock formations. I got the impression he encountered a big, snorting creature at one point, but all we see is a red circle in the beam of his flashlight, so I can’t be sure what it was. He is targeted by a friend with an axe. And each time…the footage just cuts to him alone again. And he can’t seem to remember who he is. He just hides at night, runs around the desert during the day, and even films upside down at times.

Perhaps it’s a last ditch effort by the creators to make it all make sense, but he finds a “restricted area” sign that explains nothing while letting us know he should never have come there.

It’s exactly what you think it is…

The final gory, brutal, and disturbing moments would have packed so much more of a punch if we hadn’t grown so numb to the spastic stimulation we sat through for nearly 2 hours before it.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at
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