'Phoenix Forgotten (2017)' is the story of Sophie (Florence Hartigan) a 20 something sister that is returning to her hometown in hopes of learning more about what happened to her brother 20 years prior. Josh (Luke Spencer Roberts), Sophie's older brother disappeared along with two friends the week following the famous 1997 Phoenix lights event in Phoenix, Arizona.
The film takes a hybrid approach to its format. Part of the movie is presented as a documentary that Sophie is making when she returns home to Phoenix, Arizona. The other part is shown as a found-footage film that stems from old tapes Sophie's mother has from her brothers home video camera. It is this dual approach to the film's format that ultimately resulted in my enjoyment of the movie. In this day and age, found-footage films are a dime a dozen and therefore, that style, which was made famous by The Blair Witch Project, has been over utilized as a gimmick for many horror films. I do enjoy "found-footage films, but I find that I get tired of the shaky camera work that accompanies the style, so I very much appreciated how this film broke up the shaky camera work by jumping between the two formats.
The Phoenix lights event has always been something that has fascinated me, and I appreciated how the story stayed true to the actual event that occurred in 1997. The overall direction of the film and the acting was solid, but much of the cast didn't have to do very much. Chelsea Lopez who plays Sophie, one of the two missing friends, was easily the standout performance but this is to no surprise as she certainly had the most opportunity to show off her skills as an actress. The film wasn't anything ground breaking, but I did have a sense of concern for the three missing teens, and I got an authentic vibe that Sophie indeed was missing her brother.
My biggest issue with the film is related to how the sister's timeline ended. I want to avoid spoilers here, but I will say that Sophie's storyline which is heavy for the first two-thirds of the movie just sort of disappears (no pun intended). For the first two-thirds, the film jumps back and forth between modern day and footage from 1997, but when the last third of the film hits, it switches exclusively to the 1997 footage and never returns to modern day. I want to know what the sister did after viewing the last 30 minutes of the footage from her brother's camera.
Overall, I enjoyed 'Phoenix Forgotten.' It does have a couple of plot holes and leaves the sister's story line oddly open, but I had a fun time watching it. The film does a great job of staying historically accurate to the real world Phoenix lights event, and it does a decent job with character development which resulted in a genuine concern for the three teens. I am going to give 'Phoenix Forgotten' a 6 out of 10.