The Phoenix Incident

Dir: Keith Arem
Star: Troy Baker, James C. Burns, Karl Girolamo, William Goldman

Living in Phoenix, this obviously has local interest, being inspired by a real event - more likely, two events - that took place in 1997. First, a triangular shape was observed by a large number of people in the skies above the city, and then later in the night a series of lights were seen in the sky. I reckon the latter was flares from a training exercise, but the former... yeah, I dunno. It's one of the "true" UFOs, in the sense there's no fully-convincing explanation for it. Anyway, based on the foundations of this, Arem, who is best known for his work on various video-game franchises, has built an entire mythos: it was simply the tip of an iceberg, that started with four explorers in the desert stumbling across an encounter between the military and an extra-terrestrial craft, and continues to this day, with much of the military action around the world being just a cover for an ongoing (and losing) battle against these aliens, who are steadily encroaching on more populated territory. To this end, he combines interviews, news reports (both real and fake), material obtained through a military whistleblower and found footage from the hikers.

And it's the last of these that is the problem. The rest actually works well, with some nice in-jokes that would only make sense to residents, e.g. a role for Frances Barwood, presented here as Phoenix's vice-mayor, but who was actually on the city council at the time, and sought to launch an investigation. Technically, it's also nicely done, with the insertion of military and other-wordly craft into the film that is basically close to seamless. [Indeed, it was actually successful in semi-convincing Chris, who lived here in 1997 and saw the triangular craft, into wondering if there was a real case of four vanished young men]. It's just unfortunate that the second half consists almost exclusively of shitty found footage, with people running around, being chased by something largely invisible, mostly due to the spastic camerawork. My low tolerance for this at the best of times, is already well-recorded, and it overstays its welcome by about a factor of 10. As usual, we get far too much filler, such as their extended trip out to the desert and tedious chit-chat about which we simply don't care. This is, however, still better than the 20 minutes of running and yelling delivered in lieu of a climax. Exercising some degree of restraint there would have been far, far more effective.

[November 2015]

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