Horror Movie Review: The Phoenix Tapes ’97 (2016)

With an anonymous writer, director and cast; The Phoenix Tapes ’97 really goes all out to make this film seem like a real thing. That’s worthy of some credit, something the film needs seeing as it’s a found-footage horror.

A story that based around the 1997 Phoenix Lights incident, The Phoenix Tapes ’97 is not the only film to base itself around this famous event. In 2015 we had Phoenix Incident and in 2017, we had Phoenix Forgotten.

The question is, does The Phoenix Tapes ’97 stand out or is it just another boorish and hard to watch found footage horror?

The movie begins with a man being interviewed about the death of his son. This man is convinced that his son was murdered by the government as he tried to smuggle a set of video tapes away. These tapes reportedly show the final days of four men who disappeared during the Phoenix Lights incident.

The grieving father would later find the tapes hidden in the wall of his son’s room and that is that footage we’re about to watch.

Four friends are on a fishing trip in the desert searching for a remote lake. After getting lost, they eventually find their hallowed lake but that night witness the Phoenix Lights. They were never seen again, until now as the recovered footage reveals what happened next.

If you know anything about the Phoenix Lights incident then you can probably guess where this film is going. Very slow at first, when it does pick up the frantic pace is almost too much. The story isn’t really the draw, in fact for the first time in a long time, the draw is just how authentic the film tries to be.

Made to look like it was filmed in the late 90’s by amateurs, what normally is worthy of criticism is worthy of some praise here. Don’t be fooled though, all the tired tropes and clichés are here. However, as the movie works so hard to sell what you’re seeing as real, it’s far more forgivable. You might not be sold on that completely, but few can deny it really tries.

Short enough to not overstay its welcome but also in need of some fat-trimming, if you want to watch one horror movie about the infamous Phoenix Lights incident then this isn’t a terrible choice.


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The Phoenix Tapes '97
  • The Final Score - 5.5/10
User Review
3.83 (6 votes)