Phoenix Forgotten (2017)

Phoenix ForgottenStarring Florence Hartigan, Chelsea Lopez, Justin Matthews, Luke Spencer Roberts

Directed by Justin Barber

The Phoenix Lights incident is one of the most infamous and convincing cases in the annals of Ufology. For those unfamiliar with this truly compelling event, on Thursday, March 13, 1997, lights of varying descriptions were reported by thousands of people between 19:30 and 22:30 MST in a space of about 300 miles (480 km), from the Nevada line through Phoenix to the edge of Tucson. To this very day no one has been able to give a rock solid explanation for the event, which has been called everything from genuine to the remnants of military flares.

In Phoenix Forgotten, the second feature film based upon the event, we follow the exploits of three friends who vanish while struggling to uncover the truth behind the mystery. Of course, faster than you can say “Blair Witch,” 20 years later a sibling of one of the missing trio begins filming a documentary to uncover the truth behind the mystery of their disappearance. And we’re off to the races, kids!

The first 15 minutes and the last 5 minutes of Phoenix Forgotten are pretty creepy and good. The only real problem is that the remaining hour of the movie is all talk and no show to the point of becoming increasingly duller and duller with every moment that passes. Not even a truly stand-out performance from Chelsea Lopez (seriously, watch this girl) can save the back and forth banter that goes on amidst all the Nancy Drew-ing of our lead investigator (Florence Hartigan).

Things take an even more unfortunate turn when Hartigan’s character confronts the military with conclusive proof of extraterrestrial life and gets the equivalent of a slap on the wrist from the higher-ups she was speaking to. Never mind that her footage could change the course of history as we know it; she’s just instructed to “make sure it doesn’t get out there.” As if the government would be so lax with something that could conceivably lead to mass hysteria. Why even bother with this moment?

Furthermore, the found footage aspect of Phoenix Forgotten does it absolutely no favors. We get that the relative of a victim who disappeared is making a documentary, but would they really be so callous as to score it with spooky music when appropriate? That’s a cardinal sin right there. Once you break a found footage movie’s illusion, the magic is just gone.

It’s a damned shame that Phoenix Forgotten ended up being so damned forgettable, mainly because there’s a really interesting story to be found there – one that was completely thrown out the window in favor of all too basic found footage tropes that barely deliver the right amount of creeps that they should.

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Steve Barton

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