The lo-fi sci-fi film “The Phoenix Incident” blends true crime, documentary and “Independence Day” to create a sort of “Blair Alien Project"-style thriller. Using the real events of the 1997 Phoenix lights UFO sighting and the simultaneous disappearance of four young men in the area, writer-director Keith Arem’s film suggests a government conspiracy to cover up an alien abduction.
News reports, interviews and meticulously created security-style tapes are combined with the testimony of a government official who reveals the classified truth of the incident, along with VHS footage of the group of buddies who set off on an off-roading adventure and end up tangling with violent forces both otherworldly and human.
The doc-style found-footage approach, which almost feels like a true-crime network news magazine show at times, is a smart approach to a lower-budget sci-fi film, seamlessly weaving together fact and fiction. Arem and his main actors come from the world of video games, and the hand-held camera perspective feels aesthetically similar to the style of a first-person shooter game.
Though the craft is exceptional, there are some storytelling missteps. The film makes its theory plainly obvious from the outset, so the suspense is lacking. Films like “Blair Witch Project” are far more successful when hiding the boogeyman and letting the audience fill in the gaps. Nevertheless, it’s a creative and bold take on a true event that will send you spiraling down a Google rabbit hole of alien conspiracy theories.
‘The Phoenix Incident’
Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes
Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood