Keith Arem writes and directs this US sci-fi thriller based on true events. After multiple UFO sightings in Phoenix, Arizona on March 13th 1997, a team of film-makers investigate the strange phenomena that are said to have led to the disappearances of four young men. In their quest for the truth they uncover a government conspiracy and are forced to examine the alleged involvement of the military.
Being a huge fan of UFO sightings, the 1997 case in Phoenix is one of the most baffling, curious and unexplainable incidents of all time. With hundreds of witnesses and numerous footage of the strange lights that appeared from out of nowhere, which bizarrely was later dismissed by the US Government as flares dropped from an A-10 Warthog which just happened to be on a training exercise nearby. If you have seen the countless footage and photos of that night, even the most hardened sceptic out there have to admit that what you are seeing can not be flares, and its a mystery that has become a modern time Roswell!
How only now someone has decided to make a film out of the case is a huge mystery? but full credit to Keith Arem, a first time director who is best known for his wonderful background in Video-gaming with such hits like the Call Of Duty franchise and Metro 2033. For his first attempt at movie making, Arem takes on the much dreaded Found Footage angle and while many with sigh at the sheer thought of watching the same old blueprint of people running around, filming everything and not actually stopping and thinking….”Lets get the heck out of here!”, the director cleverly plays with the real life angle and sort of invents a documentary vibe that fascinates as it equally frustrates.
One of the many things I did not know at the time of The Phoenix Lights is that doing the night of the alleged UFO sightings, four men disappeared when embarking on the mountains, never to be seen again! Now I had to Goggle to see if this part was true as I never knew this side of the story and it really adds a more haunting spin to the whole story. I actually thought that maybe this part was just an added bit to the story, a fake out to make the film become a kind of Sci-Fi version of a Blair Witch, but I was amazed to see that there are case reports of these men going missing.
Now I am still being cynical about it all, as I could not find any concentrate proof that these men really existed-some vague mentions on some websites, hardly counter for evidence, and knowing how clever Sanchez and Myrick played “the real” card for their Witch in 1999, it all adds to the mystery of that night and already this film has the hook you need and if you love UFO tales, then you will not for one moment take your eyes of this.
What this film is telling us is that their cameras from that day have been found and what we seeing is what happened that night. Now I know this part of the film is all fake, but when its added to the real footage that was filmed and the intrigue from those baffling lights, you can not help but admire what is on show here.
What Arem manages to pull off with The Phoenix Incident is cleverly play with what is real and not, making the film’s documentary vibe a massive advantage and unlike many Found Footage horror films, it does not take a while for things to get going. From the off we reminded to what happened that night and then to an Army Officer talking to the camera about the massive cover up and by the time another news reel of the lights are shown, you are desperate to see what happened to these four men.
What shocked me most is what actually happens at the hour mark because the film turned on its head. Being a huge fan of last years Alien Abduction, I was kind of believing that this would morph into something like that, but what the viewer is hit with is a kind of riff on the action classic A L I E N S, with more ropey CGI effects and without the deft hand of Cameron. To be fair though, Arem does not waste any money of his small budget, milking every ounce of his talent to deliver a most promising debut that holds much hope for the future.
With a wonderful score by John Paesano adding to the delight on show, its not since Fire In The Sky have we had such a fascinating tale of a real life UFO incident that will no doubt cause arguments with those watching! Many like me will Goggle to try and find if what we are seeing is true, there be those who will be seeing those images of the Phoenix lights for the very first time and be astonished at what they seeing.
All we know for certain is that something did happen on March 13th, 1997 and we may never know the truth, but by building a Sci- Fi Found Footage horror around the tale is a massive master-stroke by Arem and while it may run out of legs towards the end, with its budget failing its ambition, those who love nothing more than a good conspiracy will thrive on this golden X-Files case.
We saw many Alien films of this kind by the end of 2015, but The Phoenix Incident was the best UFO film of 2015 and while we all may have different opinions of what actually happened that night, 99% of us will all agree on one thing…..