Phoenix Forgotten (2017) Movie Review: Forgettable, but Fun

By: Reel 127 (Two Beers) –

The Phoenix Lights. For those of you who don’t know what those are, they aren’t to be confused with the local Phoenix ZooLights. The Phoenix Lights were lights that appeared over Phoenix in 1997. The main theory being they were lights from an alien spaceship. Having lived in Phoenix most of my life I can tell you the main reaction of locals is “Oh yeah, that’s a thing that happened.” Somewhere along the way somebody decided that a horror movie should be made about them.

Phoenix Forgotten follows three students making a documentary in the forest- I mean the desert of Arizona. Along the way they interview people about the Blair Witch- I mean, about what they think the Phoenix Lights could be.

A Toast

This movie is good. Just good. Not very good, not pretty good. If anything I would say surprisingly good. Going in to the theater to see this I had a pretty low level of expectation. With found footage films they tend to be the same thing over and over these days. Really the only thing that differed from the average found footage film was that it was about aliens instead of ghosts and/ or demons.

“Make more of these movies!”
-No One Ever

I really liked the storytelling format of the film. The idea is that it is a documentary being made in 2017 that uses footage from 1997. A woman is telling the story of her older brother who went missing in 1997 with some friends who were making a film about the Phoenix Lights. The present day scenes are more polished than the found 1997 footage, and it entirely works in the context of the movie. Normally it bugs me when a movie like this will have a score to it, but because it supposed to be a final polished project instead of mostly unedited footage it makes more sense.

At least they didn’t release this in 3D.
Like I’m expected to believe some Randy
owns 3D filming equipment.

The film takes its time in fully revealing the aliens and the source of the lights. Only in the final scene do you get a full view of the spaceship. The rest of the time it is just lights. You could argue this was because of the low budget and only having enough money to make the effects for it once. But I like to think it is because they were trying to build tension. So many horror films give away the look of the monster or villain. So much more tension can be created by not showing them, though; letting the viewer’s mind imagine what something could look like. It is teased throughout the movie what the spaceship looks like, but they are willing to wait till the last moment to reveal it.

Above: Best picture I could find to the spaceship.

Beer Two

As I mentioned before, this movie takes several plot points of The Blair Witch Project. While the filmmakers do their best to not follow the exact same story as Blair Witch, the similarities become pretty distracting. Three filmmakers go to a remote area, two male and one female, look for something supernatural, get lost and stranded, all go missing. The film even ends in a house in the middle of nowhere!

Still, Phoenix Forgotten has a way less
confusing ending.

With found footage films the thing that really needs to be scrutinized is the production value. Filmmakers often think that because it is found footage they can get away with poor production value because it’s supposed to look that way. And they are right. What becomes a problem is when they pull off editing effects that shouldn’t be possible. One example from Phoenix Forgotten is when one of the characters is talking to the camera from a distance but can be heard clearly. He isn’t shouting, and there is no sign that they brought any sort of audio equipment. Mistakes like this are really distracting. But the odd thing is that there are times in Phoenix Forgotten where they keep scenes authentic. There is one point where the audio has a really bad echo, but it was recorded in a high school hallway so it should have had the echo. Their mistakes aren’t enough to spoil the film, but they are enough to take you out of the viewing experience momentarily.

Verdict

I doubt this movie will make much money at the box office, and I can’t say the movie offers much worth seeing on the big screen. But once it is out on video on demand it would definitely be worth checking out. Phoenix Forgotten is able to tell an interesting, yet familiar story. And despite its technical errors here and there, it can still be an entertaining experience.

Phoenix Forgotten (2017) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time the scene takes place at the airport or in a plane.

Take a Drink: every time the video cuts out to a blue screen.

Take a Drink: every time they foreshadow aliens with ancient hieroglyphs.

Take a Shot: for every nosebleed.

Take a Drink: every time a story point is taken from The Blair Witch Project.

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