Having now seen “Phoenix Forgotten” again, fully sober this time, I can definitely say that it’s a great film.
It’s more of a mystery-thriller with horror themes than a horror movie, but it’s very well written, with really tense pacing. It gives you the feeling of picking up a cold trail in old mystery, and in the process, discovering something you shouldn’t have. It draws you into it. Also, the really good acting and really good writing came together to make for characters you actually care about, people that feel like real people.
Part of the secret to it’s success is that it does something a lot of found footage horror films forget to do: includes small details and subplots with no importance to the main plot in order to make it feel real. It includes little side conversations and small talk, characters share opinions on things, they talk like people actually talk. The movie also includes all these little extra flourishes that help add depth (the nerdy kid who loves aliens had an “X-Files” VHS, when the teenagers get beer illegally it’s a really cheap and shitty beer, etc.) The whole thing is made to feel like it’s real, and that helps you feel a deeper sense of investment in the already-great characters and in the story.
My only complaints are little things: there’s one minor but noticeable plot hole, and they draw on a few cliches they c/should have gone without, and there was more they could have done with it. But I really, really want y'all to go see it: not only will you enjoy it, but it’s a pretty small film, and this is the kind of filmmaking that deserves to be rewarded.