Imitating Cloverfield’s found-footage wiggle-and-zoom filmmaking, The Phoenix Incident dovetails a mass UFO sighting above the night skies of Phoenix with the unexplained disappearance of four ATV bikers.
Written and directed by gaming talent Keith Arem (Call of Duty, Titanfall), the sci-fi thriller stars Troy Baker and draws on Air Force surveillance tapes, NASA space sightings, even Senator John McCain to convince us that aliens have landed.
Lending added “authenticity” to the film are Phoenix TV reporters, Air Force officers in near shadow, confused local law enforcement, and a conspiracy lunatic with an electrified subterranean lair who spouts lines like “Earth is being recycled.”
The film then dives headlong into hyperbole, combining the above “facts” with whistle-blower testimony to create a near suspension of disbelief. Trouble is, we’ve seen these and other “Zapruder” type clips above more skies than we can count. And virtually all have been discounted as balloons, marsh gas, experimental hovercraft, drones, etc, etc. Still, I’d be cool see our Marines on a “bug hunt” on CNN someday.
Phoenix starts slow with jiggly shots of twenty somethings drinking beer and cavorting about like high school football jocks on ATVs. Soon, but not soon enough, our intrepid heroes see A-10 Warthogs and Apache gunships racing toward pie-slice spaceships. One is apparently shot down, whereupon our machismo Marine jock convinces his buddies to investigate.
At this point, we wish the trampoline camera moves and poor flashlight lighting would simply settle down. Instead, we struggle with Blair Witch bounce-and-shine lighting to make sense of the panicky shouts and smear-frame action. Amidst the terrified screams and flashes of blood, we’re treated to glimpses of Chupacabra-like aliens dragging our guys off to devour them (a bit out of character for an advanced race, but hey, it’s a thriller and they’re not the Krell).
All told, The Phoenix Incident delivers some white-knuckle moments on a gut level. Regrettably, it buries what we’d really like to know about advanced visitors from space in a 1950’s cliché’ of aliens as evil monsters.