The View from the Trailer Park: ‘Phoenix Forgotten’ – Mission Accomplished
Written by: Daniel McDonald
Being disabled makes it difficult for yours truly to get out and catch the latest releases on the big screen (my church). Luckily I have a friend David BUMBLY Reynolds, who comes and takes me out of THE ASYLUM to see whatever I drag him to (sometimes grudgingly). This time around the grudge (pun intended) was more than justified. So THREE CHEERS FOR BUMBLY!
Would that be the tone and feelings of the following expression of my opinions and observations regarding the new….found…footage “Sci-Fi/Horror?” entry PHOENIX FORGOTTEN (c’mon folks, you’ve made this one waaaay too easy!)?
First, let me state that all I really knew about this… er… project (perhaps experiment is a more appropriate term) was that it was based (kinda, sorta, perhaps) on real-life events. Why, is that considered a solid marketing and selling tool? Yeppers. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and its $1.97 budget was fairly unique at the time of its unusually marketed and killer word of mouth release, and I honestly found moments – I said m o m e n t s where some semi-effective shivers ran down the old spine.
The fact that it made a ka-zillion dollars FOR many happy producers and OFF of a seriously WTF? audience turned the “little horror engine that could” (or in many, many cases COULD NOT) thrill an audience and create a new ripple in the Horror genre (as Cher sang “Ohhh if I could turn back time…”) reminded me of the success of a particularly gross or offensive copy of The National Inquirer- the freak show at the circus (RIP) or the brutal car accident that interests so many “rubber neckers”, many of whom are sorry that they looked at all.
With the plethora of poorly executed, badly written, directed, acted, derivative, SERIOUSLY mis-marketed (as P. F. truly was), one of my personal caveats that is happening more all the time, from high standard EX-MACHINA to no standard THE GALLOWS projects. I call it deception for dollars. A serious fan would think the novelty of what was “well, that’s kinda new” filmmaking would wear off due to lack of personal-vision, style, technical challenges, originality in story creation, and extremely limited interest of quality artists (performance and technical). BUT NOOOOO!
When an iconic Sci-Fi name like Ridley Scott puts his stamp of approval and perhaps $7 or $8 of his own dollars into P. F., which also has the notoriety of being BASED ON TRUE EVENTS (at least the first Procedural Documentary style tedious half is), things become unpredictable. This also is a ridiculously tired trope. Why do promotional folk feel those “oh dear God not again” words are more attractive to cineastes than the imaginations, the humor (P.F.s idea of that is using snippets of theme music from The Outer Limits, or The X Files. I kid you not…funny? No. Grasping at anything, Sad? OHHH YEAH) of smart outside the box writers, the visionary new directors with actually fresh ideas on how to tell a story?
To make a short story long, I know, my specialty, the idea of taking that fairly well known TRUE EVENT, and using it as a base idea to tell a thrilling, mysterious, frightening horror film? Not a bad idea at all. To take said idea and douse it with the leftover deluded sludge of the film that started it all (for the most part)… Check this out, three characters (one sassy girl. 2 boys 1 sorta geeky-cute, the other a reliably strong dreamboat) on a seemingly intelligent quest to resolve, or at least disprove a local story whose actuality seems verified by thousands of locals, in a somewhat treacherous location, where the terrain is tricky by day, but oh so treacherously spooky by nightfall. The fact that one goes missing for a bit, and the…uh…grand finale takes place in an old trailer or shack or whatever…shouldn’t there be a lawsuit pending? Cinematography that eventually becomes Pepto Bismol dizzyingly “in the moment” but its first half documentary-style makes it harder than it should be for the eye to discern or care about what is what. Editing, sound and especially FX that are C to B quality okay, but dude, Ridley fucking Scott gave this a thumbs up!!! The acting across the board is far more effective from the entire cast than the film it’s in. Co-writer, director, Justin Barber (WHEW, gave me a scare too- but really, would the Biebes have done much worse?) had a decent concept on which he could have built a terrifying “WHAT IF?” HORROR film (the entire time I kept reminding myself how sadly underrated The Vicious Brother’s EXTRATERRESTRIAL was). I’ll wrap it up by saying when your big HORROR finale is a lot of screaming, bright white lights, a POV camera falling from a high “place”, and your violence factor is a couple of not all that convincing deep-fried coyote carcasses and (I kid you not FOLKS) two NOSE BLEEDS…well where does one go from that? I. J. S.
Rating: 2/5 ( mainly for the initial concept and the performances)
Nice review Daniel!