I’ve watched a fair amount of movies. I’d even go as far as to say “a lot.” Every week my friends and I gather and watch three (or so) as part of our Movie Night, I’ve been hitting up my local theater every week to see more current movies, and then I’ll sometimes watch something on Netflix in my free time. That adds up over the weeks, months, and years (Movie Night is over a decade old). So when I say that I’ve seen Phoenix Forgotten before, I don’t mean that literally, but instead that it reminds me of three other found footage movies: one I love, one I’m still ambivalent on, and one I hate.
The first is The Blair Witch Project, an amazing film and no I will not take any constructive criticism on this issue. Phoenix Forgotten is, especially towards the end, about three young people, lost and scared, being picked off by one by one. Honestly, a ton of movies use that framework, but one of the teens in this is named Josh and that really forced my weird brain to fixate on the parallels.
The second is Lake Mungo, a supernatural found footage flick about a family trying to find evidence that their dead daughter is contacting them from beyond the grave. There are no ghosts in Phoenix Forgotten, but both movies have the same issue with pacing. The first half to two-thirds of the movies are painfully slow and not all that interesting, but suddenly there’s secret, never before seen footage found that changes everything! Both aren’t awful, but after such a slow start I didn’t feel the payoffs were worth it (for the record, the twist in Lake Mungo is better than Phoenix Forgotten).
And the last is Alien Abduction, a movie about–you guessed it–aliens who abduct people. It’s in the sci-fi subgenre I call “asshole aliens,” where the entities from another world–who have successfully hidden their presence from the majority of the planet–are blundering assholes with all the subtlety of a rampaging bull. Phoenix Forgotten‘s aliens aren’t quite as overt, but they aren’t content to be mysterious lights in the sky and have a rather aggressive abduction process. But the main reason my brain brought up Alien Abduction is because both movies have the same ending of the protagonist’s camera falling from ridiculously high in the sky and somehow surviving impact, which is dumb.
That’s not to say that Phoenix Forgotten didn’t have some good points! IMDB trivia says that for 1997-era authenticity, the filmmakers took the footage and ported it to a VHS for that slightly fuzzy look, and that’s cool. The idea that these aliens are the same beings as drawn in Ezekiel’s Wheel from the Bible was kind of interesting. And, um… this movie explained who was compiling the fake documentary! Although, the movie sure did forget about her once the final footage was found… All together it’s just a very middle of the road alien movie.
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