Nerve Shredding Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva (2023) Delivers Simple Story with Max Scares
Title: Horror in the High Desert: Minerva
First Non-Festival Release: March 8, 2023 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Dutch Marich
Writer: Dutch Marich
Runtime: 74 Minutes
Starring: Solveig Helene, Brooke Bradshaw, Suziey Block
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
The year after Gary Hinge mysteriously disappears, new mysteries unfurl in Northeastern Nevada. College student Minvera (Solveig Helene) is found dead in her temporary mobile trailer home. Later, along the same lonely stretch of highway, Ameliana (Brooke Bradshaw) disappears after her car breaks down on the side of the road. Is there a connection between these tragedies and Gary’s initial disappearance?
Simple storytelling doesn’t get in the way of Horror in the High Desert: Minerva from delivering creepy and effective horror.
Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva takes an anthological approach to its story of mysterious people living in the Nevada wilderness. Minerva’s story highlights the anxiety of isolation, as a New York fish out of water living in the middle of nowhere, she lives away from her classmates in a less than suitable living environment. The story of Ameliana, however, taps into this idea of being vulnerable in a situation that would feel like an inconvenience to most people. When help is at least an hour away, how are you supposed to protect yourself? Both are great launch points for this specific type of faux documentary horror, but some challenges arise.
Questions come up in the structure of the film and its lack of cohesion in its ending. The two distinct stories are joined together by their timeline take away from the separate types of terror they inspire. Both are about vulnerable young women falling prey to sinister people in the desert, but their stories are very different. When brought together, it doesn’t feel cohesive. Minerva’s story has a more mysterious edge to it while Ameliana’s feels more viscerally terrifying. Each would benefit from having their own stand-alone films, but neither feels fleshed out enough to warrant that just yet. One of the triumphs of the first film is its way of adding twists into the mystery without getting too distracted by its worldbuilding. Perhaps, the third entry will be able to tell a more focused story now that the world has expanded substantially.
Realistic performances and approaches to documentary making give credence to the small film’s lofty ambitions. The cast behind Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva delivers convincing performances that help make the film a successfully scary mockumentary. Everyone looks and acts like real people, many of whom give off the impression that they aren’t fully comfortable with the camera. Whether intentional or not, it gives a level of realism to the film that is in its favor. Many scenes rely heavily on solely physicality or voice acting, and the cast does best when focusing on one of the two, especially when the horror begins to sink into the situation.
Director Dutch Marin expertly crafts master-class tension by making even the smallest moments unnerving. While the mystery is pared down in this installment, the terror is ratcheted up to new levels. Featuring one of the most anxiety-inducing final sequences, Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva sees a volunteer searching for a woman in an abandoned house get stalked by one of the sinister presences that haunt the northern Nevada landscape. Frustration, fear, and adrenaline pump through the impossibly tense scene as the man wanders blindly in the dark after knocking out his only source of light. Moments like this showcase Marin’s creativity and directorial restraint. He knows how to scare the shit out of you, and it’s clear he loves doing it.
Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva is an effective if familiar mockumentary that delivers easily on scares. It doesn’t quite break much new ground in terms of the story development behind the people that traverse the rough terrain in secret silence, but it does spread out to show the scale of what could be in the franchise. While its story may not do much for viewers, Marin’s confident grasp of atmosphere, tension, and imagery help this indie film punch way above its class. With horror there are many places you can travel to, make Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva your next destination.
Overall Score? 6/10