New to Movies On Demand (pay-per-view), VOD, and Blu-ray is the 2017 sci-fi thriller Phoenix Forgotten. If you’re looking for new sci-fi movies of 2017 with a compelling slow-build story and plenty of suspense, then Phoenix Forgotten should be added to your watch list. Directed and co-written (alongside T.S. Nowlin) by Justin Barber (Medicine for Melancholy), and co-produced by Ridley Scott (Alien: Covenant), the film stars Florence Hartigan (Malevolent), Chelsea Lopez (Novitiate), Luke Spencer Roberts (Hail, Caesar!), and Justin Matthews (Major Crimes).
The Phoenix Lights Incident
On March 13, 1997, thousands of people witnessed a UFO sighting in Phoenix, Arizona. Reportedly, numerous witnesses say they saw a V-shaped craft, with very large lights, passing directly over them. Allegedly, the craft was the size of several football fields. That incident has been dubbed “The Phoenix Lights.”
Many professionals say the lights were flares, and others say it was jets from the Maryland Air National Guard flying in formation. But skeptics of these explanations have one interesting ally on their side, former Arizona Governor Fife Symington III. At the time, Symington mocked the idea that it was aliens; during a press conference, he stated that they found who was responsible, and then his aide arrived on stage dressed as an alien.
But in 2007, during an interview with The Daily Courier, Fife said that he did see a UFO that night. As told in the book by Michael Ryan, The Third Kind: A Compendium of U.F.O. Encounters, Fife Symington described what he really saw during the incident.
“It was enormous and inexplicable. Who knows where it came from…And it couldn’t have been flares because it was too symmetrical. It had a geometric outline, a constant shape.”
Regardless of all the hype and controversy centered on the event, one thing is for sure: it’s a great setup for a movie. The iTunes website provides the premise for one of the cleverer sci-fi movies of 2017.
“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.”
The Lost Art In Found Footage
The Blair Witch Project didn’t invent the genre of found-footage movies, but it certainly took it to new heights. Though there has been plenty of high-quality films, many feel there has been a flood of subpar movies within that genre over the last 15 years. Phoenix Forgotten has captured the essence of what made the genre good to begin with, and it does what so many modern movies have failed to do — they focus on the story, not the gimmick.
The story is revealed through two lenses. The audience first sees Sophie, brilliantly played by Florence Hartigan. She is filming a documentary about the disappearance of her brother, Josh (Roberts), and his friends Ashley (Lopez) and Mark (Matthews). Josh filmed the trios’ experience the night of The Phoenix Incident, and the audience (along with Sophie) gets to see what they captured. The way the movie utilizes two different eras to tell this tale is very refreshing.
The direction of Barber is impressive, and he provides us with stunning landscape shots. The film feels like part found-footage and part documentary. The cast does a solid job, and Hartigan and Lopez give standout performances. Though the style of the film is of a slow-build story, with a running time of just under 90 minutes, the movie moves along at a pleasant pace.
Phoenix Forgotten has a nice balance between drama and thriller. When we view Sophie’s journey, we see the more dramatic moments of the movie. Hartigan brilliantly brings Sophie’s character to life. It’s compelling watching her contemplate the situations, and the data, that she must process during the film. The suspense of the movie occurs as we watch the footage that Josh shot during the incident. Their story has a constant build of suspense all the way to the satisfying climax.
Sci-Fi Movies 2017: Phoenix Forgotten Trailer
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With great direction, impressive performances, and a solid story, Phoenix Forgotten is one of the most entertaining sci-fi movies of 2017.
[Featured Image by Cinelou Films]