The Phoenix Incident Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by PCB Entertainment
Written and directed by Keith Arem
2016, Not Rated, 82 minutes
Released on April 8th, 2016
Michael Adamthwaite as Walt Gayson
Troy Baker as Ryan Stone
James L. Brewster as Maj. John Shipiro
James C. Burns as Ken Adams
ATVing in the desert outside Phoenix on a clear spring day in March sounds perfect for four young men in their 20s. But when the sun sets, Glenn Lauder (Yuri Lowenthal), Jake Reynolds (Liam O'Brien), Ryan Stone (Troy Baker), and Ken Adams (James C. Burns) start to see strange lights in the sky. They follow what appears to a downed aircraft to a craft site only to find it was no military exercise. What crashed in the Phoenix desert survived, and now it's after them.
Shot documentary-style, with “found footage” from Glenn's helmet-mounted camcorder, The Phoenix Incident poses a possible answer to the actual incident of the Phoenix Lights, a 1997 phenomenon in which curious lights appeared in the evening sky on March 13th. Dozens of calls to 911 reported floating, shifting, and inexplicable lights that eventually vanished. With no satisfactory explanation was ever given to these lights, filmmaker Keith Arem enjoys creative license wrapping up a mystery nearly 20 years in the making.
The documentary moments of The Phoenix Incident are pristine. The lighting, the CGI details of the military displays, the uniforms – everything looks beautiful. The interview-style allows the actors to say their lines and ad-libs so realistically that you might even wonder if this was based on a true story. But then you get to the four actors playing the young men that went missing that night and it gets preposterous. The arguments of “going home” are too formulaic, the Independence Day ripoff of a UFO crash in the desert, the nonsensical amount of insectoid aliens that appeared despite the small size of the downed craft all damage the integrity of that beautiful early footage.
The sound is a little wonky when the video first opens and it's hard to hear what the voice overs are saying over the music and sound effects. A good portion of the film takes place after dark and is lit via flashlight, which is useful for imperfect CGI but not so great for a nearsighted reviewer to figure out what's happening on screen.
The Phoenix Incident is watchable, but once the “alien invasion” gets underway I get the feeling it's a few dudes making a horror movie in the desert, tacking on a love interest here and a lost brother there to try to make an emotional impact but not knowing how to make it really stick. It's the poor man's District 9, but I'm waiting impatiently on District 10, not The Phoenix Conclusion.
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