Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.
Whilst Desierto is entirely different thematically to Gravity, it shares in the same claustrophobic nature of death being mere millimeters away, as Sam - who may as well be be Jeffery Dean Morgan's character of Negan from The Walking Dead - picks off each of the entirely oblivious migrants wandering the desert.
And as a cat-and-mouse thriller Desierto works well, with Jeffrey Dean Morgan doing his best Michael Myers impression - replacing the iconic butcher knife with a high powered rifle - and a loyal, yet seemingly monstrous, man-eating dog in tow; fittingly named Tracker - once again reinforcing along with Green Room that 2016 is the year of the vicious dog attack movie.
Speaking of man-eating canine’s, one scene involving the animal and a flare gun disturbed me in particular. But oddly the same can’t be said for the human deaths - outside of the initial mass-murder - this is in part due to how shallow proceedings truly are, with characters in Desierto merely skin-deep, never really giving you a reason to root for - in the case of the hapless victims - or hate in the form of Sam. Thankfully the technical aspects of Desierto shine bright, with some solid cinematography of the seemingly never-ending, deserted crime scene, that adds to the great sense of despair emitted throughout.
Unfortunately, I’d say the poor establishing of Sam’s character is an introduction to the root problems that plague Desierto, which - underneath its stalker-thriller trappings - aims to shine a light on a deeper message, one that the filmmakers are aiming for - regarding the plight of Mexicans looking for a better life - but completely falls flat . Within this message Sam is used merely as a boogeyman, a cheap plot device for the ensuing events whose motives are never clearly laid out.
You are truly left wonder, does Sam goes out into the desert every Sunday? With the intention to hunt and kill human beings. But the contradicting events that transpire - preceding his first kills - tell us no, that there is something else going on, but never really elaborated on; which is completely at odds with his clearly trained human-hunting, best friend. These sort of inconsistencies and omissions is where Desierto falls into mediocrity, going from a film that had the opportunity to be something far more grand, but sadly failing to live up to that potential.
The most glaring omission of Desierto though - the home release anyway - is the complete absence of any kind of special features, with a mere chapter select and trailer accompanying the film itself. Some kind of featurette showcasing the events of researching the death-defying trek of crossing the border, and the logistics of such a thing seem like a no brainer to include, alas no such luck.
Desierto is a movie of two tales, one succeeding in becoming an enjoyable, well-filmed thriller; of a man terrorising a cast of hapless victims in the middle of a desert.
- 3 Out of 5 Stars
No special features
Vicious dog attacks
- Green Room
No, many scenes of disturbing language and violence.
Contains English subtitles for all Spanish-spoken dialogue.
No blu-ray release is currently available (in UK) for Desierto, only a DVD format.