Scored 7/10 by MegaFlix Film Awards
The 2016 debut feature film of renowned video game director Keith Arem is currently enjoying a second tour of the film festival circuit after garnering critical acclaim the first time round. The story uses the real events of 13th March 1997 in Phoenix, Arizona as the plot for this found footage horror film. Known as the ‘Phoenix Lights’ this mass UFO sighting was witnessed by hundreds of people, and stunned onlookers and news reporters around the world, making it an infamous and mysterious event upon which to base a movie.
With an array of impressive graphics, special effects, stunt work, thermography, and sequences shot in military-grade night vision, the Phoenix Incident grabs the viewers’ attention right from the off with an engaging documentary style presentation which is reminiscent of the sensationalist TV specials that would predictably follow epic international news stories in the early noughties.
The realistic found footage is interspersed with convincing talking head interviews with ‘experts’ and ‘witnesses’, and is also cut with news reels taken from what appear to genuine television broadcasts from the time, setting up this film to be a believable mockumentary, with a genuine paranormal mystery at hand. However, the suspension of my disbelief faltered somewhat to begin with owing to some behind-the-scenes material being used in the title sequence and opening intro, which shows how some of the special effects were achieved, as well as serving as unexpected (and unwanted) spoilers for moments of importance which come later on in the film, but don’t worry too much – blink and you’ll miss it.
That said, the found footage and realistic documentary presentation get the film off to a good start, but this soon gives way to wild theatrics and action, through a series of tension building scenes as the plot begins to unfold and deepen, and the film is all the better for it – as despite the opening of the film doing a good job of replicating the style of a TV documentary, it does delay character development as the narrative of the film isn’t entirely linear and does seem to jump back and forth a little as the movie alternates between the found footage segments and the talking heads.
However, once the action is well underway, with chase scenes, monsters and jump scares aplenty, it is clear that this science-fiction thriller for many viewers, could easily live up to the moniker of the ‘The Blair Witch Project’ of the UFO phenomenon. Director Keith Arem has big credentials in the world of computer games, and it is clear that stylistic influence has been drawn from video game cut scenes and the fast-paced montages which are used to between levels and before ‘end bosses’ in so many modern games.
Performances are decent and believable across the board, and the CGI used for the alien monsters is really rather good. Overall, this is an impressive and brave debut feature, employing a broad range of special effects, fluent editing, and some strong performances. This is an entertaining film which will be enjoyed by those with an interest in science-fiction and found footage horror, as well as those with an interest in the subject of ufology, but is not be taken too seriously.
Reviewed and scored by Megaflix Film Awards