The Phoenix Incident (2015)


USA. 2015.


Director/Screenplay – Keith Arem, Producers – Keith Arem, Fahad Enany, Adam Lawson & Ash Sarohia, Photography – Brandon Cox, Music – John Paesano, Visual Effects Supervisor – George A. Loucas, Visual Effects – Baked FX, Special Effects Supervisor – Tom Ceglia, Makeup Effects – Autonomous Effects, Production Design – Tom Lisowski. Production Company – PCB Productions


Yuri Lowenthal (Glenn Lauder), Travis Willingham (Mitch Adams), Troy Baker (Ryan Stone), Liam O’Brien (Jacob Reynolds), Brian Bloom (LAFB Pilot), Mitch Adamthwaite (Walton S. Gayson)


In March 13, 1997, a series of lights appeared in the sky over Phoenix, Arizona. The incident, which has never been satisfactorily explained, has come to be known as The Phoenix Lights. Four men who were dirt biking in the area also went missing that night. The film uncovers video footage they took while they were out there, as well as interviews with military personnel who have come forward, that shows the Phoenix Lights were actually a decoy for a skirmish between the Air Force and aliens from a crashed UFO.

The so-called Phoenix Lights incident is one of the most well-documented UFO sightings in recent history. On the evening of March 13, 1997, numerous witnesses including the state governor and several people with video cameras, saw five lights in a V-shaped cluster moving through the sky. Two hours later, a further series of nine lights also appeared hovering over the city in a pattern. In a statement, the Air Force later claimed that the lights were aerial flares they had dropped, although this explanation has been treated with scepticism by UFO believers. The Phoenix Lights had previously been used in the films Night Skies (2007) and Alien Encounter (2008), and also formed the basis of the subsequent more high-profile Found Footage treatment Phoenix Forgotten (2017), which had an almost identical plot to this.

The Phoenix Incident is another Found Footage film and purports to show video footage from what really happened during the Phoenix Lights incident. (Although this is somewhat shot down in credibility due to the fact that it is shot using digital camerawork rather than the VHS that would have been prevalent in 1997). We have had Found Footage UFO films before with the likes of The Fourth Kind (2009), Alien Origin (2012), Skinwalker Ranch (2013), Area 51 (2015) and The Encounter (2015), The Gracefield Incident (2017) as well as the Slumber Party Alien Abduction episode of V/H/S/2 (2013).

The novelty we have here is that The Phoenix Incident skilfully merges its fictional material with actual news footage from the incident and the press conference held by military and state officials, even Senator John McCain, talking about the incident. The upshot of such is that you are unsure what is real and what is fiction. You guess from the end credits that the whistleblowing Air Force pilot is an actor but in that he is blended in between footage of real people what is real becomes a guessing game.

On the other hand, once The Phoenix Incident gets past its clever set-up, it is just another not terribly interesting Found Footage film. After learning that the lights were a cover-up, all we have is the regular stuff of a group of guys venturing off into the wilds and encountering something. There are some okay effects scenes as we see the UFO go down and some not bad creature effects as the aliens emerge. However, after this point, the rest of the film degenerates into nothing more than a bunch of people running about yelling. There is nothing more to it than that.

The Phoenix Incident was a directorial debut for Keith Arem who has been working as a director of videogames since the 1990s.

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