On March, 13th 1997 lights of varying descriptions were spotted over Phoenix, Nevada and Sonora, Mexico.
The phenomenon has been described by local and national American media as a “mass UFO sighting”, overhyping the fantasies of conspiracy theories and tickling the curiosity of many.
As a natural consequence, books have been written by alleged UFO experts and movies have been made to exploit one of the few inexplicable happenings that triggered Sci-Fi fans.
Among those low-quality and low-budget films, Phoenix Forgotten was meant to be the exception. Produced by the master of Sci-Fi, Ridley Scott – and directed by novice filmmaker Justin Barber – this is the latest attempt to a successful found-footage movie.
Instead, it might just as well be buried in anonymity alongside with tons of other mocumentaries of the same stock.
What started promising in the first 10-15 minutes became mediocre and already-seen as the movie progressed.
The footage looks, indeed, very realistic, being accompanied by glitches and lacking background music. Although the background voice takes the viewer slightly out of the experience, this part of Phoenix Forgotten is highly entertaining because creates interest and hype around the story.
When three teenagers (Josh, Ashley and Marc) disappear a few days after the lights were seen in the sky, town folk and local police go desperately in search of them. However, after some government agency and the army seemingly bury the evidences and push for all the story to be forgotten, the search stops all of the sudden.
A few years later, Josh’s sister starts to dig into the story and finds a camera with a miraculously intact tape, which is shown in the last 20-25 minutes of the film.
The actual footage, which constitutes the third act of the film, is – in my opinion – the most climactic, intriguing and even startling part of Phoenix Forgotten. Reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project (1999), the climax of the movie is well executed because it hints to things without showing them.
Unfortunately, the rest of the flick – from the first 10-15 minutes up to the last 20-25 – is only a boring, dragging stream of bureaucratic discussions, pointless dialogues and endless series of fillers who serve no purpose other than increase the pending display of the footage.
Thus, the character development is extremely disappointing. While I was watching Phoenix Forgotten I kept questioning myself whether this kind of movies need strong characters or if the characterisation would weaken the meaning of mocumentary itself.
I might be wrong, but personally I lose interest when a flick doesn’t feature compelling characters.
In the case of Phoenix Forgotten, the acting didn’t help. Formulaic, generic and bland, the only cast member who stands out is Chelsea Lopez (who portraits a terrified Ashley towards the end).
Phoenix Forgotten is not a bad movie – it’s not a good one either though. It’s just boring, and I struggle to find another adjective to describe it.
I’d say: check it out if you’re into the all alien abduction sub-genre or if you’re particularly obsessed by the lights over Phoenix. If you don’t fit this description, do yourself a favour and shy away from it. Cheers!