A found-footage science fiction horror, Phoenix Forgotten manages to do what many found-footage movies fail at doing. Tell an interesting story that doesn’t let you down at the end.
Based around the fascinating 1997 mass UFO sighting in Phoenix, Arizona & Sorona, Mexico. On Thursday, March 13th 1997 thousands of people reported seeing strange lights in the sky. Something that was quickly dismissed by the authorities. In particular the governor of Arizona who made fun of the event by dressing his aide in a UFO costume.
There have been a number of explanations for the Phoenix Lights. However, it still stands as one of the most fascinating accounts of a UFO sighting.
Phoenix Forgotten is part documentary & part sci-fi horror that splices real life footage of the Phoenix Lights. The movie opens with footage of Sophie Bishop’s 6th birthday party. At event that is taking place in the garden of the Bishop’s family home. It’s also the evening of March 13th, 1997. The party is interrupted by the strange lights, all captured in the style of the real footage, shaky & blurry as hell.
The person behind the camera is Sophie’s older brother, Josh who is absolutely fascinated by the events.
The footage ends & we meet a 26 year old Sophie who has been reviewing the footage in the hope of gaining some insight into the disappearance of her brother shortly afterwards. She, along with her boyfriend believes that Josh & his two friends disappearance is related to the 1997 event & is determined to get to the bottom of it.
Jumping between the documentary style of Sophie’s investigation & the footage of Josh & his two friends (Ashley & Mark) investigating the sighting. Phoenix Forgotten is an enthralling watch that captures the imagination thanks to the blending of styles. You’ll struggle to notice the difference between real footage & the movie if you don’t know much about the event.
That adds a layer of reality to the film & makes the haphazard filming style more agreeable to watch. You won’t mind shaky camera work, blurry footage & darkness as a lot of this stuff is based in 1997!
Character development is kept to a minimum & while this does harm how you feel about those involved it doesn’t affect the fascinating story. It picks up pace as both Sophie in 2017 & Josh in 1997 hit roadblocks & silence. About ¾ of the way through it seems as though that’s it. Josh’s footage ends with him & his friends disappearing in the desert having left the camera in their car. No trace was ever found.
With his footage ending & Sophie getting nothing but silence it seems as though that is it. However, Sophie refuses to believe that her camera obsessed brother would not have documented the rest of the trip. So she goes looking at the school where Ashley was a film editor. Initially drawing a blank again, she later gets a call that reveals a charred & damaged camera has been in storage at the school for many years. A camera with a tape in it.
Anticipation for what’s on this tape is high & the film builds well towards it’s reveal. Even cutting away from the footage as it starts to focus on Sophie’s reaction & what she does afterwards.
The film does end though with that footage & it is quite something. Well worth waiting for & while it doesn’t completely clear up everything it does put the full stop on what happened to the missing teenagers.
For being found footage too it really has some visual flair & it’s hard not to be impressed with some of the final shots. In particular the final minute or two.
While Phoenix Forgotten does fall into some of the ‘found-footage’ traps it does well at avoiding many of the more annoying tropes. In a sub-genre of horror that is all about increasing levels of mediocrity, the effort put in here to tell a story that interests & keeps your attention is admirable.