Tuesday, April 4, 2023

‘Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva’ Director Dutch Marich Discusses His Terrifying Found Footage Sequel [Interview]

In case you missed it, director Dutch Marich‘s 2021 found footage chiller Horror in the High Desert is a little-known gem that has recently been generating some well-deserved word of mouth among fans of the subgenre. Though found footage remains a subgenre maligned by many, now and then, a filmmaker manages to bring out the best in the format–exploring effective scares, unsettling imagery, and intriguing stories in new and inventive ways. Horror in the High Desert is a prime example of this ingenuity. While the story initially unfolds how a run-of-the-mill spooky docuseries might, the final 10 minutes of the film deliver an equally curious and bone-chilling turn that solidifies Marich’s world firmly in the realm of high strangeness.

If Marich’s microbudget film resonated with you as much as it did me, you have likely already rushed to check out Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva, which saw its release in March of this year. For those who haven’t, it may be enticing to know that the very scary sequel takes what made the first film so chilling and amps it up to 11. Marich is firing on all cylinders as we follow stories of two new unfortunate souls in the High Desert–Minerva (Solveig Helene) and Ameliana (Brooke Bradshaw)–whose individually horrific stories point to a more significant phenomenon at play in Marich’s world.

Something’s going down in Luminol Entertainment’s “Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva.”

I recently had the opportunity to briefly chat with the director (who also serves as the film’s screenwriter, producer, and editor) about what inspired the film’s tone, building out his story, and what’s next for the Horror in the High Desert universe. Speaking of the film’s often anxiety-inducing scares, Marich had much to say about atmosphere. “To me the most frightening thing has always been the fear of the unknown. Getting hints of what lurks beyond the shadows, but never the full picture. What I strive to create in these films is an atmosphere that sets the stage for sequences that elicit both fear and a sense of wonder. What am I seeing? Is that what I think it is? Leaving bread crumbs along the way for the audience to form their own theories is fun.”

Though the narrative unfolding across these films seems straightforward enough, Minerva continues to build out an increasingly bizarre tale involving inexplicable phenomena plaguing residents along a stretch of the High Desert region in Nevada. Marich delivers scares and images reminiscent of the best moments from several found footage favorites that came before (see specifically: The Poughkeepsie TapesHell House LLC, Hangman, and Willow Creek). Even with that said, Marich’s films boast a unique approach to the subgenre that aficionados of highly strange phenomena will undoubtedly appreciate.

Suziey Block (“Gal Roberts”) returns in Luminol Entertainment’s “Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva.”

“The story for Minerva came about after driving by that trailer a million times and thinking about how frightening it would be to live there on the side of the highway all alone,” Marich states, speaking specifically of a trailer that features prominently in the film. “What would be scarier than living there? Living there as an outsider and having no idea about these mysterious disappearances and frightening events taking place in the area. You’d be a sitting duck. A Marion Crane.”

As the horror genre has recently seen a handful of buzzed-about films exploring high strangeness and liminal horrors (e.g., The Outwaters, Skinamarink, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair), Marich is certainly aware of the wake in which Minerva has surfaced. “It’s wild to see those films creating this new wave of horror and suddenly be among them,” Marich states. “I love those movies… strangeness to me is brain candy. I’ve always crafted my stories and visuals around things that scare me and to have so many people connect with it and be frightened by it is incredibly thrilling and rewarding as a filmmaker.”

Director Dutch Marich prepping a shot for Luminol Entertainment’s “Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva.”

While Marich’s sequel boasts plenty of scares, it also conveys a sense of authenticity that is often difficult to master in films of this nature. Speaking of this, Marich states, “For the Horror in the High Desert movies, to capture authenticity, I’ve mainly worked with people that I know personally and have history with. Aside from Suziey Block, who plays Gal Roberts, the journalist covering the stories, most are non-actors.” As one of the most significant challenges in creating a found footage horror flick is getting actors to act like they’re not acting, Marich’s casting decisions further amp up the feeling of genuine dread as viewers witness horrifying experiences befall people who all feel like someone you might know from your hometown. That said, established actress Block (who also stars in the wonderfully unsettling 2012 film Entrance) is a strong anchor for both films in her reporter role.

Given the found footage films previously referenced, it may be unsurprising to find that Marich’s interest in the subgenre was born when he encountered The Blair Witch Project. “Like most others, my love affair with found footage started when I saw The Blair Witch Project for the first time in 1999. Me and my friend made our own version of it on my grandpa’s video camera and to this day it terrifies me that I can’t find that tape to destroy it! We went waaaaay over the top.” While viewers may be waiting a while for that fan film to surface, Marich promises that more films in the series will be coming. “As of right now, there are five movies in the Horror in the High Desert movie series. I say as of right now because I have several other stories that would fit right into the universe. And I love making them!”

As a die-hard found footage horror fiend, I say bring them on!

Horror in the High Desert is currently available for free on Tubi. Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva is available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime. Marich’s next entry, tentatively titled Horror in the High Desert 3: Firewatch, is currently targeted for a late 2023 release.

The post ‘Horror in the High Desert 2: Minerva’ Director Dutch Marich Discusses His Terrifying Found Footage Sequel [Interview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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