DIRECTOR: Justin Barber
Luke Spencer Roberts
Ana Dela Cruz
When some mysterious glowing lights appear and disappear over Phoenix, Arizona. It happens only once in which they are never seen again. The US government also tries to cover up the lights by calling them a hoax. When a teenage boy who witnesses the event becomes obsessed with it. He and two friends head out with their cameras and into the desert to see if they can document the lights and see if aliens really do exist.
I'm someone that believes in the supernatural. I also believe that it is pretty ignorant to think that we are the only people or life in the vast reaches of space. With so many stars and planets out there in the solar system. I really do believe that we aren't the only ones. I have also always been very intrigued and fascinated with the notion that our government does have secret bases that are there to try and cover up any alien sightings. They are there to keep it secret, so we don't have mass panic.
Going into Phoenix Forgotten, what initially caught my eye about the film was the fact that Ridley Scott was a producer on this film. I thought with his involvement, we may actually get a really solid take on the alien abduction movie. If his trust was placed in filmmaker Justin Barber to give us something special. All my trust was in Ridley Scott being on board this film. His name alone sold me on checking this one out. We know his record with alien cinema.
Over the last few years, I have grown really tired of this whole found footage movie. Some are over zombies, some were over the whole American adaptations of Japanese supernatural films. For me, it's the found footage movie. We have had a few excellent films that have come out that use the technique, but a vast majority of the movies in which I've seen have been less than stellar. Sadly, Phoenix Forgotten hasn't changed my opinion in regards to how I currently feel about this subgenre of film.
The film feels like it can be broken up into three acts. The first act is the Phoenix light incident. We see our two main characters of the sister and brother as children. I really enjoyed the setup. I liked the whole lights over Phoenix scene at the family barbeque. I thought it was creepy enough. I'm well aware of the original footage of the event. I find it inherently eerie that it's never been explained. This opening created a sense of foreboding dread, and for that, I think the movie deserves a couple of points.
The second act of the film is where it drags. We follow the now older sister. It sets up the two-time lines for the movie. The present and the past. We learn that her brother and two of his friends had headed out into the desert to find answers, but they never returned. The second act is the sister interviewing people and trying to find answers to what happened that night and to her brother. It actually killed the vibe of the film. It feels like it's added to stretch out the running time for the movie. Without it, this would've been a much tighter short film. The second and third act almost feels beat for beat like The Blair Witch Project.
The third act is where the film picks up the pace, and we find evidence that there are indeed aliens out there. We see what happens to the three teenagers. I found that I enjoyed the build-up to the alien abduction scene. I thought they managed to ramp up the tension. Where it felt like it loses steam is the final few minutes. I felt like I'd seen this type of ending a dozen times in these found footage films. It feels like they added nothing new here in that final few minutes. It moves from point A to point B which is fine, but there are no subverting expectations here. There are no shock or surprises to be found in the movie.
When it comes to the alien action in the film. We get all of two minutes. If you go in hoping to see any alien lifeforms, you'll be sorely disappointed. It's all erratic camera footage, screaming and running through the darkness. While we see bright lights and people being sucked up into the sky, we don't see any aliens here. It all sort of feels like a very long-winded way to get to two minutes of action. The final shot of the film where the camera falls back to Earth was a nice touch though. I can't fault that final visual in the movie.
Lastly, we have the performances and acting. The standouts in Phoenix Forgotten are the three teenagers. We spend most of our time with them. They are given the most to work with. The sister character who is played by Florence Hartigan gets the entire second act, where she plays a strong and resilient woman who is trying to get to the bottom of her younger brother's disappearance. While she is fine, her part of the film is what feels like filler. It's the three actors playing the teenagers that are standout here. So I can't fault Chelsea Lopez, Luke Spencer Roberts, and Justin Matthews.
DEATH TOLL: 3
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A lot of dead rotting foxes are shown in the desert.
- A guy is seen getting sucked up into the sky.
- A girl is sucked up into the air by an alien ship.
- A woman starts bleeding from her nose.
- A guy disappears after blood starts pouring out of her nose.
Going into Phoenix Forgotten, I was pretty excited. I've been aware of the lights over Phoenix incident since it first happened way back in 1997. I've always been incredibly fascinated with aliens and the whole government conspiracy side of things. So when it was announced, I was excited to see what Ridley Scott and Co. would deliver. Sadly, it feels like a missed opportunity. A found footage movie that doesn't take any risks and follows The Blair Witch Project formula pretty closely. While we get a few moments of tension and a committed younger cast. This feels like a case of seen it all before.