An American photographer (David Wissak) and his Russian girlfriend (Katia Golubeva, Pola X) drift through the Southern California desert scouting for an upcoming photo shoot. Passing through vast landscapes of twisted Joshua Trees and highways, there's a profound sense of isolation and vulnerability, as though forces much larger than they are will be closing in on them. Of course, Bruno Dumont hasn't crafted a traditional horror film where a monster lurks behind the jagged rocks -- though comparisons to The Hills Have Eyes and Duel may prove appropriate to viewers patient enough to endure this stark, slow ride into peril.

The true horror emerges between David and Katia, whose relationship ebbs and flows between fierce arguments and fleeting reconciliations. Their frequent sex scenes imply desperation, as David moves in on Katia like a predator during a swimming pool encounter and lets out anguished shrieks at the moment of climax. Being in a relationship has been described by some as an act of will, and this couple's resolve is consuming them and soon to overtake them. The horror of Twentynine Palms is existential, which is to say, "What it means to exist." These characters, so private in their pain and fleeting joy, have to share the same space, and it threatens to drive them mad.

Continue reading: Twentynine Palms (2003) Review