Phoenix Forgotten is awful. I couldn't contain myself. I couldn't even pretend for one paragraph, or sentence, to like this film. It is like an immediate Full House in a game of awful foound footage movie bingo.
You get the character who just has to keep recording everything, without good enough justification for his habit. You get horrible visuals because it's supposed to have been recorded by an amateur. You get a selection of lead characters that don't have any actual depth. And you get nothing happening until the final 15-20 minutes, which inevitable feature a night-vision sequence and a build up to what is supposed to be something resembling a bit of a finale.
Directed by Justin Barber (this is his feature directorial debut, unsurprisingly), who also co-wrote the script with T. S. Nowlin (who at least also has The Maze Runner movies in his filmography), the format of Phoenix Forgotten is a documentary being made that investigates the disappearance of three young adults. The trio had decided to see what they could find out about an incident involving some mysterious lights in the night sky. They then disappeared, with no bodies ever found.
I could spend longer detailing the failures of this film than the creators seemed to spend on crafting it and making it entertaining from viewers. This is seriously embarrassing at times, often smacking of that lazy attitude that you can sense in the worst found footage films. You know what I mean. The whole "oh, we can knock this out cheap and make a good bundle" attitude.
The best movies in this style can make you uneasy throughout. They can dripfeed interesting details to help viewers create an entire storyline in their head that may or may not play out onscreen. This doesn't do either of those things. It simply has three people getting lost and then shows their situation worsen. Swap the desert area for some thick woods and you have The Blair Witch Project, but only if that was made by lazy incompetents who didn't know how to create superior scares. In fact, one moment here is such a blatant nod to the finale of The Blair Witch Project that I thought I was seeing things. Because why would you reference something that would remind viewers of the inferior nature of your material?
That's the word that may stay in your mind as you watch this film. Why? Why, why, why? So many decisions, from the plotting to the editing and shooting, just don't make sense. I almost made this review nothing more than a list of twenty questions, which would have been an equally valid response to my time being wasted.
Cast-wise, Florence Hartigan is the main documentary "presenter", and the three main subjects are played by Luke Spencer Roberts, Chelsea Lopez, and Justin Matthews. None of them are very good. And I don't mean that they're that bad either. They're just there, unable to overcome the dull and dire script, and also just sometimes being . . . okay, they're sometimes quite bad.
My generous rating below reflects some of the technical aspects, although I still begrudge anything that raises this up from the very bottom of the barrel it belongs. Especially as this production had some weight behind it.
Avoid. There are at least half a dozen better films along the same lines that I can recommend, if you're ever curious. Just ask.
Phoenix Forgotten can be bought here.
Americans can pick it up here.