‘Horror In The High Desert 3: Firewatch’ Unnamed Footage Festival Review: Horror Edging At Its Finest

Unnamed Footage Festival Horror In The High Desert

At the Q&A after the world premiere of his new film Horror In The High Desert 3: Firewatch at the Unnamed Footage Festival, writer and director Dutch Marich referred to his style of found footage filmmaking as “horror edging”. It’s the perfect description of how Marich develops tension in his successful and horrific series. There are no quick jump scares here. Instead, Marich lives in the discomfort, in the dark places barely illuminated by a dying flashlight, full of strange sounds but nothing ever fully revealing itself. Catharsis doesn’t live here; only fear does. And the most recent entry is another shining example of such a term. Going back to what happened to Gary Hinge, the subject of the first film, Marich continues to build a believably bone-chilling world as he reveals more and more about what exactly is lurking in the wilds of the high desert while also delivering a surprisingly sad tale about finding acceptance in the digital world.

In Horror In The High Desert 3: Firewatch, our subject is Oscar Mendoza (Marco Antonio Parra), a young man who found purpose when he learned about the disappearance of Gary Hinge (Eric Mencis) in Nevada’s High Desert. In the first film, Marich shared Gary’s story, culminating in the shocking footage at the end which reveals something living in the wilderness. Oscar believes he can find out what happened to Gary, an obsession that distracts him from his own troubled life.

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Here, Marich goes deeper into his central character, telling not just a horror story, but also a story about a traumatized, depressed man who finally finds purpose in understanding what happened to Gary and the community he found online surrounding the mystery. Oscar believes he has a secret that’ll help him find whatever Gary found in the High Desert; he’s finally found a purpose and he’ll stop at nothing to find the truth, no matter how dangerous. It’s a fascinating look at a man whose obsession gave him a reason to live, a story that, while obviously fantastical, also speaks to the reality of isolation and mental illness in the digital age.

Yes, I know most aren’t coming to Horror In The High Desert for character development, but that’s what makes this series work so well. Marich not only writes good characters, but he works with actors who are able to really embody those characters and make them feel real. These aren’t the performances that often plague lower-budget found footage films, which only add to the terror when it arrives. Parra IS Mendoza as he smiles, laughs, and runs for the camera, radiating an infectious energy that makes you love him before his inevitable journey into ghoulish hell.

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The world-building in Horror In The High Desert 3 is once again top-tier as Marich builds upon his twisted web to reveal even more bizarre information about whatever seems to call these isolated hills home. The first film showed us there was at least one of these things out there. The second revealed that this was a much bigger situation as Marich moved beyond Gary to two more disappearances. Now it’s come full circle as Oscar uses all this information on his quest into the wilderness. But, importantly, if you haven’t seen the first two films, you can still easily watch and follow this entry as Marich does an admirable job providing just enough context without over-explaining the previous storylines. It’s a fine balance between complex and simple, which is impressive to watch him maintain throughout a franchise.

In terms of scares, Marich really loves making you just sit in the world’s most uncomfortable situations until your stomach starts hurting. While Horror In The High Desert 3 doesn’t have as many jaw-dropping scares as the second, the tension-building is better than ever to the point that I felt nauseous. This is the closest you’ll get to understanding what it feels like to be stalked by something without being able to actually see it. While we’re just watching Oscar’s footage, we quickly feel like we’re the ones being hunted as Oscar goes deeper and deeper into the hills.

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As usual with these films, to say any more would ruin the reveals and scares that Marich crafts here. The sound design once again is unsettling, paired with some imagery that’ll be seared into the backs of my eyelids for the next few weeks. This is the kind of film found footage fans dream of, and Marich just keeps getting better with each entry. He’s crafting a new kind of franchise, one emerging in the found footage world that focuses on incredible world-building. It’s a breath of much-needed fresh air in a world dominated by the need for recognizable IP above all else.

And speaking of IP, yes, Marich does set up Horror In The High Desert 4. But you’ll have to watch to find out what else awaits us in the isolated lands of Nevada…

Horror In The High Desert 3 is set to hit VOD soon, keep an eye on Dread Central for more updates as we have them!



This is the kind of film found footage fans dream of, and they just keep getting better with each entry.



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