Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Director: Justin Barber
Writer: Justin Barber, T.S. Nowlin
Star actors: Florence Hartigan, Luke Spencer Roberts, Chelsea Lopez, Justin Matthews
Found footage films themselves are nothing unique or special anymore in the horror scene; the shaky camera and jump scares have all become trademarks of the genre. It is rare that I have found crossovers in the realm of found footage. When I hit the play button on a found footage film all I expect is nothing more than horrifying camera angles that blur out what I really want to see on screen. Phoenix Forgotten does just that but it also does something a little more: it mashes a documentary with found footage films and it does it well.
Phoenix Forgotten starts off as a film about Sophie's (Florence Hartigan) journey to discover what happened to her brother Josh (Luke Spencer Roberts) and his two friends twenty years ago after mysterious lights appeared above Phoenix, Arizona. This is all shot documentary style; there are interviews with local law enforcement, Josh and his friends' parents, as well as locals around the town; there are bits of old news reports shuffled in the mix, and there are bits of Josh and his friends' tape recordings from the day they disappeared. What all this does, especially when sticking to relatively unknown actors, is it adds a believable factor to the faux documentary. That is exactly what a fake documentary needs to do; it needs to dupe the audience into believing what they are seeing on screen is real and Phoenix Forgotten does that just right.
After being lead into a dead end once more Sophie believes that there has to be a missing tape somewhere or another. A helpful lead from the principle of the school Josh and his friends once attended brings Sophie to a box with a beaten up camcorder inside with the missing tape. It is after this is discovered that Sophie and her cameraman assistant show off what appeared on the tape.
This is where Phoenix Forgotten splits in half. The majority of the film takes place in that faux documentary mash-up, but as soon as the lost tape boots up the film takes a massive turn straight into found footage film. It is in this section that we get to see Josh, Ashley (Chelsea Lopez), and Mark's (Justin Matthews) fate. While there were some bits of romance in the picture I found that unnecessary and it also slowed down the picture. But when the going gets rough it just continues and continues until everyone is gone and all that is left is a camera on the ground. After that it is game over and the film ends.
I believe Phoenix Forgotten got the faux documentary part down to a tee; it was interesting, believable, and somewhat engaging considering I got to meet the sister of a fallen brother still searching for answers and hope. The found footage segment while a bit slow still kept things rolling, but the abrupt ending left many, many questions that I doubt will ever see answered considering the film's poor box office and critical reception thus far. I may be one of the few who actually enjoyed it but hopefully this review will encourage you to go see it as well. After all, Alien Day was only yesterday and there is not much in the film market currently to scratch that itch.
Apr 27 2017
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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