“Shadows In the Desert: High Strangeness In the Borrego Triangle” (2024)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Shadows In the Desert: High Strangeness In the Borrego Triangle from Red Crow Media, Blurry Monsters Media, David Flora, and Derek Hayes.

Derek Hayes and David Flora explore unique areas and stories of weird phenomena of the "Borrego Triangle," an area full of anomalous phenomena including cryptids, ghosts, disappearances, and UFOs.

The Good
Joseph: I enjoyed the documentary Shadows In the Desert: High Strangeness In the Borrego Triangle  for many of the same reasons that I’m a big fan of Small Town Monsters’ documentaries (for example, you can read my review of On the Trail of Bigfoot: Land of the Missing here). In both cases, the filmmakers — here, cowriters/codirectors David Flora and Derek Hayes — focus on the legends and folklore of the areas on which they are examining, taking eyewitness accounts as reasonable reactions to having seen something strange without either automatically presenting their stories as factual or making the witnesses seem less than credible, and providing plenty of local color. The desert can be a very weird place, and high strangeness that includes alleged sightings of ghosts, hairy cryptids, and unidentified aerial phenomena add to the mystery of such isolated American landscapes. Flora and Hayes interview witnesses to unusual sightings, local historians, fellow podcasters, and experts in certain scholarly fields along with personally exploring sights of incidents and testing out theories that sound more plausible than supernatural phenomenon. It’s an approach that makes the open-mindedness toward strange occurrences more credible than resorting to sensationalism.

Mike: Back when Joseph and I did the Uphill Both Ways podcast we learned that we both held a fascination with cryptids, UFOS, and paranormal things that were fueled, if not born, by things like In Search Of.  Documentaries like Shadows In the Desert: High Strangeness In the Borrego Triangle play to all of those interests and are quite enjoyable to watch.
What makes this one stand out from some that I’ve seen is the open-mindedness of Flora and Hayes, with neither of them quickly pulling the “Yep, that’s Bigfoot for sure” as soon as someone says they saw a hairy creature.  While they don’t go full Dana Scully and disregard things off hand, they DO let their beliefs (and/or desires for things to be real) influence them and it shows to a degree, they also offer up a critical look that provides an opportunity for the viewer to lean one way or another on their own.  One early example of this is minor enough that I hope this doesn’t spoil much of anything, but when looking at “balls of light” they offer up — and even test — a theory of quartz striking quartz and possibly igniting tumbleweeds with a spark.  
That Flora and Hayes cover a wide range of topics from bigfoot to ghosts that all manifest within the Borrego Triangle in Southern California, is nice as it gives the viewer a little bit of everything.  The fact that nothing is presented as fact OR fiction encourages the viewer to dig a little deeper.

The Bad
Joseph: With Flora and Hayes packing multiple types of high strangeness into one documentary clocking in at just under two hours, we get a good feel for the locale but only an introductory feel for the different subjects. Some more detail on each topic would be nice, but then we would be looking at a miniseries rather than a single feature-length documentary. This isn’t really a “bad” element, and as it is the only thing I could come up with for this category, it shows you how highly I consider the quality of this film.

Mike: I mentioned the wide range of topics in the ‘Good’ section, but I’m also putting it down here as well solely for the fact that none of the topics really get enough time devoted to them to really let interest build in the viewer for what Flora and Hayes are doing.  Some talking heads, a little artwork and animation, a visit to the specific location, and it’s on to the next topic.  Even at a nearly two hour runtime it felt like some of the topics got a bit cheated out of screen time.  I would have preferred to see the film focus on one or two related topics and maybe be a two part doc.
Aside from this personal quibble, there’s not much else to complain about.

The Verdict
Joseph: Earnest in their approach, and with interview subjects who come across as knowledgeable and rational, Flora and Hayes have crafted a solid high-strangeness documentary that works wonderfully as a stand-alone feature and that is also a fine calling card for future features or a television series. Aficionados of high-quality documentaries of unexplained mysteries will find plenty to enjoy here.

Mike: David Flora and Derek Hayes have great chemistry together and are enjoyable to watch as they visit with experts in the area and strike out on their own to investigate the different phenomena.  The wide range of topics covered is a bit of a double-edged sword — on one hand giving the viewer plenty of items to digest, but on the other never really devoting enough time to building a riveting amount of interest in any of them.
The open-mindedness of Flora and Hayes towards each subject they cover is welcome as it allows the viewer to lean one way or another on their own without being coaxed into falling to one side of the fence or the other.
Fans of cryptids, UFOs, and paranormal will find a lot to like about Shadows In the Desert: High Strangeness In the Borrego Triangle.  

Shadows In the Desert: High Strangeness In the Borrego Triangle
, from Freestyle Digital Media, is available on DVD and VOD on March 5th, 2024

Shadows In the Desert: High Strangeness In the Borrego Triangle
Directed By: David Flora, Derek Hayes
Written By: David Flora, Derek Hayes
Starring:  David Flora, Derek Hayes, Bryce Johnson
Run Time: 1h 51m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2024