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.
Phoenix Forgotten tells the story of three teens who went into the desert shortly after the incident, hoping to document the strange events occurring in their town. They disappeared that night, and were never seen again. Now, on the twentieth anniversary of their disappearance, unseen footage has finally been discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition. For the first time ever, the truth will be revealed.
For the final shot, in which the camera falls from a flying spaceship, the filmmakers actually attached a JVC camcorder to a small weather balloon while it was recording, and allowed the camera to fall back to the ground when the balloon popped. To their amazement, while the camera's body was damaged and lens shattered, the inner mechanisms survived the fall and even kept recording. See more »
Billboards advertising the three teens missing show a number with the 480 area code in it. The film takes place in 1997, but 480 area code was not created until 1999. See more »
better than you'd expect, though not without problems of its own
I'm not sure if Phoenix Forgotten marks, much more than even last year's "soft reboot/sequel" of Blair Witch, the "found footage" sub-type or genre of horror, the full circle of what it's been all about. The funny thing is that this is not entirely even found footage; it is actually, to go back further, indebted too to what Blair Witch was itself doing an homage to, Cannibal Holocaust, though that didn't pretend to be the documentary that this does. While we do get to see some of the footage shot in 1997 by the main woman's older brother sporadically in the first two thirds, we don't get the full, unfiltered "found" part of it until the last twenty minutes. And, whether it's because a lot has been built up beforehand with the characters, it's the best part of the movie.
I should note that this first two-thirds feels longer because some of the character build up is of the stock kind; the acting isn't that bad, certainly considering the low budget, but this all seems to go on for a long while. It almost puts the director Justin Barber into an uncomfortable position: he has to really have something that pays off for our patience, or else we're going to be quite mad (there was a large family sitting near me which had such an inclination at the end of the film, with one exclaiming, and I quote, "That s*** was ass!") Thankfully, it pays off just enough to be passable. Could it have been more, or a little less predictable? Of course, it almost always can be.
I do have to stress that this is probably a better movie than you're expecting while, simultaneously, being reasonable enough for a rental or even a Netflix viewing - not so much for a movie theater screen where, indeed, much of what we see isn't so cinematic as to warrant a giant screen experience. What stands out is that the performances are by people who are trying (and the writing is trying for them too, at least up to a point, the actress, Chelsea Lopez I think, on the poster is the example of that), and the director and his team make some clever motions to bringing alien invasion into the found-footage horror style.
So the special effects are all seamlessly done in the frame of what *is* a shot-on-90's-consumer-grade camcorder. There isn't anything in the present day, so everything in the past has to work. As far as capturing that rough-edged 90's approach technically speaking, and getting us to believe it, they do a competent job. If anything if the whole movie had been *more* in the 90's style - say, if they found rolls and rolls of tapes and that's all they had to go on, no present-day interviews with boiler-plate answers from the parents and experts and journalists - it'd be even more appealing.
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