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20 years after three teenagers disappeared in the wake of mysterious lights appearing above Phoenix, Arizona, unseen footage from that night has been discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition.
Director: Justin Barber
Writers: T.S. Nowlin, Justin Barber
Stars: Florence Hartigan, Luke Spencer Roberts, Chelsea Lopez
Review by Gilbert Seah
PHOENIX FORGOTTEN arrives with the hype that it comes from not only the same producers as the blockbuster hits 300 and THE MARTIAN but also with Ridley Scott’s name attached to the producer credits. Of course this might not mean much, but at least one can be assured that at least the concept of the film must have been worth something.
Which it does, judging from the film’s opening scene that provides the film some promise. From the point of view of a home made video, the audience sees a jittery framework of footage of a family birthday party for young Sophie, bespectacled and looking all puzzled while everyone else talks to the camera.
The something weird occurs. The roof of the house is almost taken down by what seems to be low hovering UFO’s apparently caught on the video camera as well. Voiceover on the footage claims that this was the last time a picture was taken of the family all together. A good quirky start for a movie that then moves to the present time.
The film takes its cue from the spring of 1997 when several residents of Phoenix, Arizona claimed to have witnessed mysterious lights in the sky. This phenomenon, which became known as “The Phoenix Lights,” remains the most famous UFO sighting in American history.
The film’s premise continues that on July 23, 1997, three high school student filmmakers went missing while camping in the desert outside Phoenix. The purpose of their trip was to document their investigation into the Phoenix Lights. They were never seen again. Twenty years later, Sophie (Florence Hartigan), a documentary filmmaker and younger sibling of one of the missing, returns to Phoenix to delve into the their disappearances and the emotional trauma left on those that knew them. Sophie being a documentarist is the excuse of the found footage style for story telling, But it is hard to believe later on in the film, that the three are continuing their filming when they are running for dear life.
The problem of this movie is that one can guess that the three are going to be abducted and the found footage would indicate that. This results in a very dull middle section of the film.
The found footage horror sci-fi flick has the same look and feel as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and inevitably PHOENIX FORGOTTEN will be compared to that film.
For one the found footage technique has been used already not once too often and always in this kind of low budget film. So, the novelty is gone and director Barber might as well do this horror story in the conventional way. No real advantage can be seen in having the film done in the found footage way, except to give the audience a sense of false authenticity of the proceedings.
PHOENIX FORGOTTEN is now available on iTunes! It will hit VOD and DVD/Blu-Ray on August 1st. Clearly not the best film of the year but it is available quite cheap for all that it is worth.
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