The Phoenix Incident

Don't look to The Phoenix Incident for the goofy-creepy, purportedly fact-based alien-abduction horror that in the '90s scarified what we could call Generation X-Files. Instead, despite taking inspiration from the soundly debunked 1997 Phoenix Lights sightings, this faux-doc found-footage silliness holds true to this decade's thriller time-wasters, wrapping with half an hour of dudes dashing through dark corridors, fleeing monsters and shouting "Fuck!" If that's your jam, you'll find things to groove with here. Writer/director Keith Arem hails from the video-game world, and here he exhibits much of what is and isn't thrilling about first-person shooters: He's got a way with flashlights, with shadows that suggest something lurking, with lulling you before the jump-scare. But he does nothing to make you care about his people, a quartet of obnoxious extreme-sports bros, and the occasional monologue from a desert hermit plays like the mythos-dump cutscenes gamers skip right past.

The film peaks with a sequence in which the bros, out four-wheeling, catch -- in smartly faked camcorder shots -- spaceships zipping over the desert. That builds to a tense and even beautiful ATV chase, high beams cutting through the blackness and brake lights making the dust clouds sulfurous. Too bad that the 35 minutes before all this are a howling bore devoid of story or structure, the wearying scenes of bros bro-ing intercut with faked news footage, ominous talking heads and more title cards than Intolerance. All that onscreen text could use a once-over: Just moments after claiming this is all a documentary, The Phoenix Incident announces, with dopey solemnity, "Based on actual events." Later, John McCain is identified in a news clip as "Arizona state senator," a demotion sure to thrill the Tea Party.

Credits

Director:

  • Keith Arem

Cast:

  • Troy Baker
  • Yuri Lowenthal
  • Liam O'Brien
  • Travis Willingham

Writer:

  • Keith Arem

Producers:

  • Keith Arem
  • Adam Lawson
  • Ash Sarohia
  • Fahad Enany

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