Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva (2023) Review
Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva is, as you might guess, the sequel to the found footage/mockumentary film Horror in the High Desert. Released in 2021 became a surprise hit among found footage fans. It didn’t surprise me too much as having reviewed writer/director Dutch Marich’s previous films Infernum and Reaptown, I figured it was just a matter of time before somebody besides me noticed his work.
The sequel picks up a year after the events of the original with the police in Cyprus Nevada getting a nonverbal 911 call. What the first responders find is no ordinary crime scene. The victim is a woman named Minerva (Solveig Helene) and we follow reporter Gal Roberts (Suziey Block, The Pact II, Dude Bro Party Massacre III) returning from the original as she investigates the case.
It’s an intermingling of videos between her and her friend Cathy (Sami Sallaway) back in NYC with interviews from someone who lived nearby, an EMT (David Nichols Jr., Bloodsucka Jones vs. The Creeping Death, What We Do Is Secret) who was on the scene, etc. so we get a portrait of what happened, as well as how she had come to be in that remote trailer in the first place. And most importantly some evidence that was accidentally given to her friend by police who thought it belonged to the missing woman.
This is where Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva really gets creepy with some paintings that look like they came from an episode of Night Gallery and mysterious mysterious VHS tapes including one shot by someone inside the trailer. The weird vocals in the background of that footage are particularly unsettling. While I couldn’t entirely make out what was being said it has the flow of some kind of sermon and seems oddly familiar.
The last part of Horror in the High Desert 2 deals with another woman, Ameliana Brasher (Brooke Bradshaw, Happy Horror Days, Miserable Sinners) who vanished on the same night Minerva was killed. This is a slightly more conventional sounding case, her car broke down in the middle of nowhere, she called for help but was nowhere to be found when it arrived.
Once again the devil is in the details, or should I say the footage. We see what her dashcam and her phone recorded. More importantly, we see what one of the members of the search team, the EMT from the first case as a matter of fact, caught with his camera. Despite that, this almost feels like an afterthought compared to the attention paid to Minerva’s case.
And yes it is called Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva but Marich might have been better off giving the film another ten or fifteen minutes and fleshing out Ameliana’s story a bit more. Apart from the footage, there’s just an interview with Ameliana’s mother (Christine Martin, Southbound) which feels a bit thin. Either that or have folded the important parts of this segment into Minerva’s and simply have one story again.
Horror in the High Desert 2 can certainly stand with the original when it comes to eerie and unsettling moments. The low-lit scenes with strange sounds have a way of getting under your skin even when you aren’t seeing vague shapes just outside the flashlight beam. And I can’t emphasize enough just how much the sound helps set the mood and make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
However, if you’re expecting an answer to the question of just what is going on out in the Nevada desert you will be disappointed. While we do see a few things that suggest possibilities, the sequel actually deepens the mystery. I have a few theories of my own, somewhat connected to the director’s other films but that could be a coincidence as much as a shared horrorverse in the making. Hopefully the third film, apparently there are plans for five all total, will start to offer some answers.
Fans of the original and as well as found footage and mockumentaries in general should be equally pleased with the follow-up. It stays true to the roots of the franchise while expanding its scope and raising some new questions. Indie Rights Films has released Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva on Digital. You can check the film’s Facebook page for details. And you can check with FilmTagger for similar films to hold you over until the next installment is released.