Phoenix Forgotten: Unforgettable

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Phoenix Forgotten

Here's why I hate "found footage" films: because when they're done well, they accomplish their objective and convince you what you are seeing actually happened; and when you mentally correct course in the middle of the film, you have a very disconcerting sense of cognitive dissonance as your brain argues against itself as to what is real and what is not.

Enter PHOENIX FORGOTTEN, a slow-starting documentary that picks up the pace about fifteen minutes in. It begins with a birthday party of a six year old girl, with her teenaged brother, Josh, controlling the camera. It is during the party that the so-called Phoenix Lights appear in the sky--beginning an obsession with Josh that potentially leads to his disappearance.

But Josh didn't disappear alone. He took two other teenagers with him, and they were never found.

Enter present day, twenty years later, and we meet Sophie, now 26, filming her own documentary about the disappearance of the three Phoenix teens. Her investigation is largely prosaic, and filled in with tapes collected from her brother's room, ending with the last tape that was recovered in the vehicle they abandoned in the desert.

But when a second camera is found, burned and baked from the desert sun, with a tape intact, Sophie's documentary takes a horrific turn.

PHOENIX FORGOTTEN takes a little while to get into, but it's worth the effort. Once it picks up steam, it's fully engrossing and carries you on the edge of your seat all the way to the end. You'll leave completely believing that the teens went missing because of their obsession with finding aliens, and you'll have to remind yourself that these were actors you saw, playing roles -- not real life. Actors directed by Justin Barber, who co-writes the whole thing with T.S. Nowlin, in a film partially produced by Ridley Scott. But even as you tell yourself this, prepare yourself. Because there's going to remain that one tiny part of your brain that resists with one singularly expressed desire:

"I want to believe."

4.0 / 5.0