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12 Most Disturbing Moments From Horror In The High Desert, Ranked

Since the release of "The Blair Witch Project," found footage films are a staple in the horror industry. From "Paranormal Activity" to "As Above So Below," there are plenty of options for fans of the subgenre. There are even more thriller-based options like "Searching." "Horror in the High Desert" is yet another entry featuring someone lost in the wilderness while strange events take place around them, both before and after their disappearance.

Gary Hinge (Eric Mencis) is an avid hiker, often going to the most desolate places of the Nevada desert with very little food and water. The film follows his disappearance while hiking to an unknown location and how the case unfolds through interviews with his sister Beverly (Tonya Williams-Ogden), his roommate Simon (Errol Porter), a private investigator, and a journalist. 

The mockumentary relies on building tension to cause fear rather than the traditional jump scares many are accustomed to, but that doesn't mean "Horror in the High Desert" is without disturbing moments. From eerie foreshadowing to music that seemingly comes from nowhere, there is plenty about this flick that will cause you to pull the covers over your face and stare wide-eyed at the screen in anticipation. It may even make your list of the most underrated found footage movies out there. Here are the most unsettling and off-putting moments to look out for.

12. The opening sequence

The film's opening scene does a great job of setting the tone for audiences. It contains black and white videos and photographs put together, showing different aspects of the Nevada desert, some better and some worse. The time-lapse videos show a hardly changing ground to a quickly changing sky, while photos of animal bones or venomous rattlesnakes are interspersed throughout, showing just how deadly the desert can be.

Initially, this doesn't seem disturbing. But, as the film progresses, you realize that the sense of dread and anticipation the music and sequence build is just a tiny taste of what is to come. The deceased animals and snake imagery are foreshadowing what Gary deals with on his trip, while the never-changing desert shows how time passes but the landscape never changes. The snake is an interesting way to show the varied attacks that the hiker faces, as snakes will give warning strikes before landing a final blow, much like the antagonist of the situation. 

These thoughts add to the confusion surrounding Gary's final trip, like why he turned his phone off and where his personal belongings are found. As the movie comes to a close, the realization that the black and white scene foreshadowed everything the missing person experienced while doing very little is startling and genius.

11. The 1800s mining camp cemetery

As the viewers learn about Gary and what he spends his free time and working hours doing, they see footage from his explorations. While much of that is him showing off the landscape, mountains he hiked over, or sheep and trains he comes across, one video sticks out. 

It's revealed later in the movie that Gary had a blog where he shared hiking tips with an audience of 50,000 followers. One of his videos shows a "cemetery from a late 1800s old mining camp," with small plots surrounded by metal fences. He says he won't tell his audience the location because he doesn't want people getting lost or hurt, much like the warnings he issues in his final blog post.

The cemetery foreshadows what's to come, just like the opening sequence. There aren't many upright grave markers, but the camera holds steady on the one that is still erect in the middle of the cemetery, hinting at Gary's fate. It is difficult to get to the location, just like the area the hiker disappeared from. "Give you an idea of where I had to hike from," he says as he zooms in on a mountain range in the distance. "Is that mountain way over there, my truck's on the other side of it." There's something off-putting knowing that someone who regularly goes to obscure areas with no issues, and makes it back unharmed, disappears in a hidden place they'd been to before.

10. How Gary's parents died

While interviewing Gary's sister Beverly, it's revealed that the two of them lost their parents as children. During a night fishing trip, Gary moved a lantern so he could look for frogs in the dark. His parents were relying on that lantern to bring them back to a safe section of the shoreline in the dark. Instead of arriving in the area they had anticipated, they ended up in a rocky area and lost their lives. 

This did create a barrier between the siblings but also showed just how many people his sister had lost in her life. As siblings, they lost their parents together. As a sister, she lost her brother, and in the process of trying to figure out what happened to him, discovered there was a whole part of his life that he kept a secret from everyone else. It's both heartbreaking and disturbing to know that, even though it was an accident, Gary's actions are what killed their parents. It also acts as a foreshadowing tool, as his own actions, and eagerness to prove himself to the followers of his blog, are what ended his life as well.

9. Where the truck was found

Part of the investigation was the search for his truck. Authorities believed that finding the hiker's truck would answer the questions they had on where he went and if he was still alive. It was found 55 miles out of town, which isn't crazy when Gary's job is considered. His sister discusses how she feels when she saw the truck, her thoughts going to "he probably fell, maybe broke an ankle, stuck in a ravine, can't get himself out." Normal considerations for an avid hiker like himself. 

Gary's roommate Simon isn't as convinced. "It just wasn't in a place where Gary would have left it," he notes. The roommate expands on that thought, saying it didn't seem like the type of place his roommate would normally explore, especially considering he had gone hiking with Gary before and knew his habits. Beverly ultimately concedes, agreeing with Simon that the location "wasn't Gary." If the two people that know him best in the world are in agreement that the hiker would never leave his truck where the police found it, there must be something sinister going on. That thought alone is disturbing and unsettling. 

But then the realization sinks in. If Gary didn't leave his truck there, who did? It's the first sign of foul play in the case, which automatically adds another layer of confusion and concern to an already distressing situation.

8. Gary's feelings of dread and gloom at the cabin

When he finds the cabin for the first time, he smells smoke, which was odd. The hiker is out in the middle of nowhere with no campfire in sight. As he explores, he finds a cabin with smoke coming out of the chimney, which would explain the smell. His sister, roommate, and a reporter note that he shared his feelings about the area, discussing that the longer he was there, the more dread he felt.

Gary has a sixth sense that he needs to get away from the cabin. He leaves the area, trying to put as much distance between himself and the structure as he can before settling down for the night. After finding something odd at his campsite in the morning, he makes the decision to head back to his truck and go home. It's a three-day journey to the place he left his vehicle. A voiceover from Beverly notes that "he felt like somebody was following him" as he hiked out of the location.

His audience doesn't believe his story, leaving hurtful comments and turning on him. They call him a "lonely loser" and accuse him of making up a story for attention. What he experienced and his reaction to it were alarming. This is an individual that is well-versed in traveling in isolated deserts. If he is scared to be near something, we should all take notice.

7. What was found in and around the truck

While the area the truck is found in is odd, what investigators found in and around the vehicle is even more disturbing. Prints from bare feet are found around the truck like they are walking away from it. This is immediately concerning. Why would Gary have been barefoot? And if it wasn't Gary, then who was it? Bill Salerno (David Morales), the private investigator brought in by Beverly, says these prints were "scarred and unidentifiable," meaning if the authorities wanted to determine who they belonged to, they couldn't.

In addition to the footprints, fingerprints from an unknown individual were found all over the truck. On the dashboard, the steering wheel, the gear shift; everywhere that someone would need to touch to drive the car. The combination of unknown prints leads to the conclusion that Gary wasn't the one who drove and left the truck there. It's unsettling as the realization solidifies because whoever drove the truck there is probably involved with Gary's disappearance. The person that drove the truck wasn't interested in robbing the hiker, either; the investigators found the envelope with his rent money in the center console.

Beverly thinks these findings could be explained by Gary picking up a hitchhiker and something going wrong or someone stealing his truck while he was away from it. She even considers that he picked up someone he knew, like a friend. All of these scenarios and the implications of them are off-putting.

6. What Gary found outside his tent

As Gary moves away from the cabin and settles down for the night in his tent, he can't sleep. Gal Roberts (Suziey Block), a reporter interviewed for the film because of her coverage of the case, recalls that in his last blog post, he says he slept with his shoes on because of how frightened he was. He didn't have any way to protect himself and knew he was vulnerable. When he woke up the next morning, it was clear someone had been walking around his campsite. There were barefoot footprints around his tent, just like what was found by his truck.

This information creates a link. Gary had seen similar footprints in an area that he ultimately revisited to try and prove something to his followers. It isn't known if the prints the hiker saw were also scarred because he didn't have his video camera the first time he found the cabin. However, it doesn't seem like a coincidence that when he disappears there are also barefoot footprints around his truck. It's creepy to know that these prints could've been made by the same person and that this individual followed him to his campsite.

5. The near-attack by an unknown individual

When Gary returns to the cabin, the perfect storm begins as he is nearly attacked by someone. As he comes up to the cabin, having smelled the smoke for some time, he realizes someone is walking around the desert. The hiker uses his hand to cover the lens of the camera and move away from the person, trying to leave the area after figuring out someone is there. This doesn't go well, as the individual hears him and charges at him with a long object in hand. Gary gets away this time, using the firearm he brought to protect himself.

It's always startling to have someone coming at you. What makes the moment one of the most disturbing in "Horror in the High Desert" is that it comes out of nowhere, and we still don't know who this person is, even as the film comes to a close. Are they who made the barefoot footprints around the tent and truck? Had they been anticipating Gary would come back? Why are they out there in the middle of nowhere?

After the attack, the individual starts walking around with a torch and whatever they used to attack the hiker, alluding that they are on the prowl for Gary. If the individual wasn't looking for Gary before, he definitely is now.

4. Gary's final blog post

Gary made one final post before he headed off toward the cabin again. It is accidentally deleted by his sister when she discovers his blog, but the filmmaker is able to recover it and play it for viewers. In the video, the hiker details that he recognizes his fans don't believe him, but he is going to return to the area with his camera and film what he saw. He says how long the journey will take him, the day he is planning to leave, and reinforces that he won't be giving away the location so people don't try to go out and find it themselves. "We are going to find out what this is," he remarks to the camera.

It's a simple video, but it says everything the audience needs to know. Determined to show his followers what he saw, he shares his plans to go back out there, even though he's already had some strange occurrences and experiences. He is willing to face his fears and go back. It's off-putting that Gary felt the need to prove himself to strangers on the internet, and even more so when you realize it's what ended his life. What adds to that feeling is that, even after his fate is revealed, 17 different social media accounts try to recreate his journey and find the cabin. They know it ended his life, yet they are willing to make the same trip, which is equally as startling.

3. The strange music and calls at the cabin

As Gary approaches the cabin for a second time, it's clear something is different. The desert is quiet and still until it isn't anymore. While the hiker records on an infrared camera, moving into the brush toward the trail markers he left the first time, some strange calls or music begin as he finds the last one. It sounds like the calls are on some type of frequency, with them echoing and wavering. What starts off as someone yelling seems to turn into chanting. The distortion of the voice makes it unclear if what he's hearing is human or auto-generated by a device.

Gary is moving through the desert. The only things the audience can see are trees and the vast darkness, and then these sounds start. Until then, all that's heard are his footsteps. It's eerie and creepy, especially when it stops and picks up again as he arrives at the cabin. There's almost nothing more disturbing than strange sounds that you can't determine the source of. Was it a warning sign, acting as a final chance for the hiker to turn around?

2. What was in Gary's backpack

Gary's truck isn't the only possession of his located during the investigation. His backpack was found by a couple while they were camping in White Pine County. It was hanging on a shovel in their camp, placed there while they were sleeping during the night. Someone wanted the backpack to be found and wanted the police to see what was inside.

The contents of the backpack are what many would expect. His belongings, like a water bottle, are visible, but whoever left the backpack at the campsite added something to it. Gary's hand, still holding his video camera, was tucked inside. It was a "clean cut," reporter Roberts notes, meaning it wasn't removed by an animal. Someone intentionally hurt Gary that way.

As the only "gore" of the movie, that makes it disturbing right off the bat. However, knowing that someone purposefully placed his hand, and a camera that could contain evidence, in his backpack and then intentionally put it somewhere someone would find it over a month after Gary went missing is startling on an entirely different level. Either the camera doesn't have evidence of the person that did this or that person doesn't care if it does, which adds to the alarming nature of the situation.

1. The last image on Gary's tapes

"Horror in the High Desert" relies on feelings of dread and anticipation to build suspense, and its most disturbing moment is no exception. After the backpack is found, everyone wants to know if the camera has the memory chip and if it was intact after all the time that has passed. The memory chip contains Gary's final moments, which play out on screen for viewers. 

He decides to move towards the cabin in the middle of the night, hoping to stay under the radar, but he does anything but. After one attack from an unknown individual that results in Gary using his firearm, the individual appears again out of nowhere in what is an implied second attack after a heated game of cat and mouse. The image of this individual incredibly close to the camera is the last bit of footage the audience sees. 

At this point, the audience already knows what happens to Gary. After his backpack was found, everyone in his life knew what happened. But they had never seen his final moments. These videos show them and the person responsible for Gary's presumed death. Even though authorities have a face to link to the crime, they never figure out who this individual is. There is nothing more disturbing than having all the pieces of the puzzle but not knowing how they fit together.