Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Horror in the High Desert, or: Trouble Afoot

This Horror Month we’ve enjoyed the antics of witches, murderous mannequins, social media influencers, and…barefoot hill people? Our film this week is so ambiguous that I’m not particularly sure who the monsters are lurking in the mountains, but they do have knives and torches. No shoes, though.

The Film:

Horror in the High Desert


Dutch Marich

The Premise:

A documentary-style film investigates the disappearance of an experience hiker with a supernatural twist.

The Ramble:

After hiker and survivalist Gary doesn’t return from a hike in the Nevada wilderness, those closest to him are suspicious right away. His roommate Simon and sister Beverly agree that Gary wouldn’t choose to leave without a trace, particularly since it means leaving his dog alone with no one to take care of him.

Though Gary’s disappearance was (supposedly) a major story when it happened in 2017, his story has largely vanished from the public eye. In this fake documentary, several characters weigh in on what may have happened, from a reporter who broke the story to a park ranger, friends, and family.

As with any good possible murder, almost everyone has something to hide. While Beverly was close to her brother, she may have resented raising him after their parents’ early death. Is her disruption of the search for Gary related to her grief…or intentional misdirection?

Additional suspects include Simon, an unnamed mystery boyfriend(!), and Gary’s many followers on his secret but highly successful survival blog(!!!). After the search is finally called off following the gruesome discovery of Gary’s hand along with his belongings, the investigators discover additional evidence: 3 final videos Gary filmed. In the first video, Gary describes a shack he stumbled across but fled quickly when experiencing an overwhelming dread. With many of his blog followers disbelieving and even bullying Gary, was it his return to this chilling place that caused his demise?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh, this had potential but ultimately was a bit boring and anticlimactic in my opinion. This is quite clearly low budget, though some of the directing/acting choices may have elevated it. Additionally, there’s so much beautiful scenery around that is under-utilized. There are times this feels like an extended episode of alien docuseries on the History Channel, and it’s not a good look.

Likely what dooms the film is its determination to leave things ambiguous (and potentially leave room for a sequel) and refuse to answer a lot of questions. This is particularly a problem because many of these questions are raised in the final few minutes, so while we have a general idea of what happens to Gary, there’s not a lot of buildup around the mythology of who or what he encountered. I find the decision to leave the found footage until the end not particularly effective, as it could have been interspersed throughout to create more suspense. The found footage is genuinely unsettling, honestly.

It’s also extremely dissatisfying that Gary’s reason for returning to the site that filled him with dread is that…people online didn’t believe him? He legit could have come up with hard evidence that the Loch Ness monster exists and people on the internet would still think it’s a hoax. It’s difficult to believe that Gary would (a) think he could find enough evidence to convince people of his findings, or (b) only encounter trolls/cyber-bullying at this point when he’s had a successful blog for years.

As an aside, the repeated analysis of the bare footprints discovered along with Gary’s tracks is bizarrely hilarious to me. The characters spend A LOT of time discussing how chilling it is and speculating about why the person didn’t have shoes. And there are SO MANY shots of an unknown person walking without shoes in a rather Jesus-like robe. Maybe if we’d gotten some answers on this front it wouldn’t stick out in my mind as much, but we didn’t. And it does.

Would my blog wife search for this one in the desert or leave it to wander shoeless in Nevada? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

How to Talk to Girls at Parties, or: Zan-adu

This month takes us not to new cities, countries, or worlds, but new galaxies.  Time to finally take up stargazing because we’re ready to kick off Alien August!

The Film:

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

The Premise:

A teen trying to get his punk band off the ground unknowingly joins an alien party for an evening, leading to shenanigans.

The Ramble:

1970s London.  Punk.  Eyeliner.  Spiky hair.  Aliens?  Aliens.

Enn is a wannabe punk rocker with his small group of misfit friends.  No one seems to like his little gang, as their fellow punks think they’re posers, while everyone else thinks they’re hoodlums.

After embarrassing himself in front of the entire Croydon punk scene at a concert, Enn has also struck out with Boadicea, a punk with the connections to get their band into the limelight.

A woman with bleach-blonde hair and a punk aesthetic smokes a cigarette.

At least they have the after party to look forward to…until the trio become hopelessly lost while trying to find the party.  Upon hearing strange music they’ve never experienced the likes of, Enn and his pals follow the sounds to a different party–an alien party.

Unbeknownst to any of the 3, they all have a good time grooving with the aliens, getting some hot alien action, and meeting intriguing alien girls.  Enn feels a connection with Zan, an alien in the form of a teenager who wants to see and experience human life in an authentic way.

Unfortunately, the other aliens disapprove of Zan’s actions and even believe she will stir up trouble.  After partying all night, Zan meets Enn’s mother as well as one of her fellow aliens, who sort of possesses the body of Enn’s mother to communicate?

A group of four women stand with hands on hips; they are wearing skin-tight orange and black outfits with orange patches at the breast and crotch area.

When Enn and Zan return to Boadicea’s undergound punk club, a misunderstanding leads her to believe Zan is a big deal in the American scene.  As a result, Zan accidentally becomes the lead singer of a punk band for the night.

A young man and woman at a house party face each other, screaming into microphones.

However, her night goes off the rails when other aliens crash the party and she decides to do a little much carpe diem-ing in defiance.  Overhearing some rather sinister plans, Enn becomes convinced Zan is part of a cannibalistic cult that will kill and eat its own.

Calling in a favor from Boadicea, Enn assembles a punk army to defeat the aliens and save Zan. Does she even need saving, though?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

The coherence level is low here, but there are just enough charming touches to almost make up for it.  There are some crazy, nonsensical sequences, but I don’t hate them–the energy is great and feels drawn from a genuine love of punk music and culture.  Honestly, the plot is kind of unnecessary and not nearly as fun as just watching punk and alien cultures collide.

The highlights here are the two main ladies.  Elle Fanning’s mannerisms are endearing and fun and avoid the trope of the logic-driven, emotionless alien.  I do love that she keeps asking Enn to see the punk.  And can we please talk about punk Nicole Kidman dressed more or less as David Bowie in Labyrinth?  Because it’s just as incredible as it sounds.

Was this the dark punk rock dream of my blog wife or a total poser?  Find out in her review here!