Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Phoenix Forgotten

9 of 11 viewers "Liked" "Phoenix Forgotten" (2017, USA)
Here's what the creatures had to say:

The Ascendant - "Although it echoes quite a few technical & promotional aspects of The Blair Witch Project (1999), Justin Barber's Phoenix Forgotten (2017) is just interesting enough to warrant its 87-minute run-time. The film (Co-Written by T.S. Nowlin) succeeds tremendously when it bathes itself completely in the year of 1997, whether it is reveling in Jay Keitel's (Analog Days) spot-on Cinematography, (using) incorrect references or immersing us in the public obsession with UFOs throughout the time-period. It's safe to say that I was enthralled with this film's mystique whenever I was in the presence of our doomed-filmmakers, Josh, Ashley & Mark (played by Luke Spencer Roberts, Chelsea Lopez & Justin Matthews) or observing sightings of The Phoenix Lights themselves (originally occurring over Phoenix, Arizona & Sonora, Mexico) via found footage or through various news clips. Against that, the film consistently lost my attention whenever Justin Barber & T.S. Nowlin's script entered present day, as Sophie (played by Florence Hartigan) begins a search for her lost brother Josh and his missing cohorts, through the trio's found footage as well as through interviews with local law enforcement and various family members. The main issue here (outside of strange establishing shots) is with Florence Hartigan's incredibly flat performance, which speaks less to a sister frantically searching for some connection in her brother's disappearance, than it does to an actress who is a bit too aware of the camera in front of her and a director that isn't sure how to soften her (stiff) performance. In spite of this, Phoenix Forgotten's (2017) foot in the past is its consistent strength, even if it confines itself inside safe & predictable tropes." - 2.5 Stars

The Berkeley Blazer - "As our astute readers well know, the key to an effective supernatural or scifi mystery is distance and obfuscation; the less one knows about the mystery the more mysterious it is, and the greater likelihood that the viewer's sense of wonder is heightened specifically because they want to know more. Thus a creator must know when and how to dole out just enough information to keep the viewer rapt. Phoenix Forgotten (PF) strikes this balance brilliantly through the first 93% of the film, and then fails miserably with a misbegotten and surprisingly derivative conclusion that even retroactively banalizes some of the tantalizing clues provided in the earlier parts of the film. Oh well, if that’s your peeve then avoid this film at all costs. If you can overlook this, I urge you enjoy this found footage/ lost X-files episode when you have a free evening. The idea: in the late 90's three kids in Arizona go missing while in pursuit of the origins of the mysterious, possibly otherworldly lights that they witnessed near their home. Lucky for us, two of the kids is are aspiring documentarians whose search for the truth is inspired by their desire to film and present their findings to the world. Fast forward to the present day and we are following the grown up sister of one of the kids who went missing, filming a documentary about their disappearance. Thus, the film is presented as a documentary (about missing documentarians) and affords us the temporal and formal distance from the central incident of the movie, making the the mystery agonizingly potent. We are fascinated as we watch footage unreel of the three friends and their discoveries in 1997 juxtaposed with the anguish and longing of the loved ones in the modern day who still have no idea what happened to the missing. We also get beguiling commentary by experts involved in the search. The clues presented in both the modern day documentary and the 90’s era documentary the kids are making create a wonderful foreboding mystery to the whole proceeding (until they are cheapened by the conclusion) and though we’ve seen these associations before in films and media (and which PF joyfully references), the presentation of these clues and ideas are nonetheless effective in inflating our expectations. Not incidentally, the nineties footage really achieves and authentic feeling tone that is really integral to the way the modern and 90’s era footage interact with each other narratively. This authenticity was personally exciting for me as someone who as a youth lived for two years in the southwest and was obsessed with secret military projects and aliens, I was impressed by how salient the filmmakers made the tone of that time and place for the audience." - 4 Stars

Captured by the Beast - Fell Asleep - Default 2 Stars

Clark Little - "The sub genre of found footage will always pull me in. I buy in, every time. Phoenix Forgotten was no exception. I knew nothing of it and saw no trailer. This movie almost worked. Using an "investigative documentary" approach, which was effective, allowed the viewer to become more invested in the missing party. But the ending ruined any chance of becoming memorable and will ultimately fall in the category of just another entry in the saturated found footage market." - 2.5 Stars

Dabbles - "I loved this movie. It combined everything I like about found footage and my infatuation with UFOs. I've always had a thing for the idea of the unknown since the days of X-files and this pretty much made me go back to that feeling of wondering if there were or are other beings. The way they sequenced this movie was pretty ingenious, from the set up to the pay off you're hooked on what is going on. At first it was a bit jarring because (spoiler alert) a narration comes up but then it made total sense to the movie as a whole. If you bare with me, the form of "found footage" is kind of like hardcore wrestling. In hardcore wrestling you see something being set up or pulled out, whether it's a table, thumb tacks, barbwire, it's there in the beginning or in the middle of a match, and you know that this thing, what ever it is, is important because it is going to come into play some how. The performers go through the motions and build this tension for a big pay off. Then there it is, the object or theme that was wavering to the side of the action that you were consciously trying to clue into the plot. With Phoenix Forgotten, they did just that, as I was watching I was also trying to clue in where is this going to take place, how is this thing going to play into the whole experience, and once they clued you in you are there for the ride. Effects were great, plot and story well played out, performances of the actors sold everything on screen, and it was deeply satisfying." - 5 Stars

Drumachine - "A love letter to 90's sci-fi presented in a well structured found footage package. ...By far the most real feeling found footage film I've seen." - 4 Stars

Huntress - "My heart sank just a little bit at the opening of Phoenix Forgotten, where we are greeted by a distant and steady shot of a girl looking out of a plane window, because I was looking forward to a pure found footage film. But when it was soon revealed that this was the younger sister of one of the missing kids, and that she was being followed by her own cameraman to make a documentary... well it's moments like that that keep me from researching new movies too much. My curiosity and excitement ran wild. And only now do I realize just how well crafted this film and story were. How the audience gets to know the missing three through their own footage, but also through the speculation and commentary of their family's interviews, that we don't really know much about the documentary's host except through little clues like her birthday video being re-titled to reflect the other even that happened that day. Phoenix Forgotten was a great mystery and drama, in addition to being legit found footage film. It's a ride I definitely want to take again." - 4 Stars

The Impostor - "Phoenix Forgotten is a breath of fresh air for the found footage sub genre. I went in with high hopes and I was not let down. Found footage is one of my favorite genres of mine; I love the build up, twists, and turns and Phoenix Forgotten has all of that and more. Acting is top notch especially from Chelsea Lopez who plays Ashley. Don't sleep on this film, it's great in the theater (found footage usually is) and will definitely surprise you. While there aren't many scares, the mystery and tension built throughout captivates you. Overall solid film and I look forward to picking up on Blu-ray when it gets released in a few months. Don't follow the lights lol." - 4 Stars

Lord Battle - "I find myself comparing the found footage genre to Lars Von Tries Dogma 95' movement because it's really the best way to explain to someone (especially a high brow film fan) why a genre would adhere to strict parameters that most audiences don't understand, let alone respect. Phoenix Forgotten is what I call a "nerdy" found footage film, with film-makers going out of their way to hit most of the notes that define the genre. This is an important distinction since it drastically changes the tone of the film from others in the horror sub-genre (Paranormal Activity, As Above, So Below). I ritually roll my eyes whenever some "Film Critic" replaces their review of a found footage film with a comment about The Blair Witch, but the imagery in Phoenix Forgotten is so spot on 90's nostalgia that I actually would have welcomed some constructive Blair Witch Project name dropping. It infuriates me that the film peasants who only don their thinking-cap when watching Kubrick or Lynch constantly cast a net of ignorance at a whole genre of film. I often find myself defending the found footage genre but Phoenix Forgotten doesn't need my help, just marketing..." - 4.5 Stars

Randy the Reverberator - "As a non-avid watcher of found footage, I quite enjoyed Phoenix Forgotten. I had seen posters for the film around my neighborhood, but besides that I really had no clue what to expect. I went in thinking that it could potentially be awful, but as someone who grew up interested in, as well as a little bit scared of aliens and UFO's, I figured it would at least be fun. When the film opened with a very well composed, high definition shot, it diverted my expectations, knowing that this was a found footage film. The framing device that's used before we dive fully into the found footage (there are clips of footage beforehand as well), looks and works great. The story of a sister looking for her brother who disappeared is something that's been done before, but it feels genuine and authentic. It also sets up the characters and relationships of the kids who went missing, while on their own rogue mission to find out what is up with the Phoenix Lights. Although this worked for me, it did start to drag, and when they throw it to the recently found tape, I was completely ready for it. The third act is exciting, and as someone who used to shoot "movies" on Mini DV tapes, there's a ton of nostalgia for that as well as for the time period. If you've seen a found footage film before, you know how this is going to end...but they've crafted some unique visual effects for one of the final moments, and it doesn't rely on jump scares or shaky cam to obscure the events." - 3.5 Stars

Trash - "We're a Found Footage Friendly Family here at the Overlook Theatre, but I have to confide something in you now that I'm a few beers deep: most found footage horror does not work for me. The "we found a tape, here's the tape" premise is too sloppy and unbelievable, and what I actually want from the sub-genre is a well-constructed faux documentary. I want non-nonfiction, and that's exactly what Phoenix Forgotten was -- and it's easily one of the best I've seen. Sadly, it's about a half decade too late to matter much, audiences have lost interest, and the marketing for this was really half-assed. But the characters are good, the alien story is interesting, and the dedication to recreating the 90's in archival footage and old tapes is on point. And it pays off! The climax isn't too big to break your focus, and it certainly isn't a disappointment. It's smart and it's weird and it's going to fail at the box office. Bummer." - 4 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

YouTube is very alive with Phoenix Lights talk, video, and UFO conspiracies, so I've grabbed what I believe to be a well-rounded representation of the different kind of UFO love YouTube has and presented it in four videos below. Enjoy.

Here is a recent Phoenix news broadcast that sums up the Phoenix Lights story pretty well.

The Phoenix Lights documentary is exactly what it sounds like and in its entirety above.

Could this be another actual sighting of the lights?

Ummm a real UFO cult meets at Tom Green's place...

And if you haven't already, check out the official site for Phoenix Forgotten here.

-Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized at Century Theatres for an opening night screening on 4/21/2017
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not affect the rating.

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