“The Phoenix Tapes ’97” : Stop Me Now ‘Cuz You’ve Definitely Heard This One Before —

Posted: March 5, 2017 in movies
Tags: , , , , ,


As far as modern UFO “flaps” go, none are more well-known than the so-called “Phoenix Lights” incident of 1997, and while I’m not sure we’ve ever gotten anything like an “official explanation” as to what went down, I’ll guarantee you this much — the reality of the situation, whatever it may be, is probably far more interesting than 2016’s “found footage” indie micro-budgeter The Phoenix Tapes ’97. Even if all it was all just swamp gas or reflections of the planet Venus.

The authorship behind this particular piece of garbage is difficult to ascertain — the film has no credits, but that’s par for the course with these things. What’s far less common is the fact that this flick has no IMDB page, and that its official website lists none of the names of the people involved in its production, either. It does, however, make the more-than-dubious claim that the flick was “banned” from all streaming services save for Amazon Prime (which is where I caught it, obviously), a pathetically transparent slice of old-school hucksterism designed to foll the gullible into thinking that maybe this is the “real deal,” after all.


Which, needless to say, it isn’t — but if it were, events would purportedly have happened thusly : a guy named Dustin Miller was a “top-secret government agent” of some sort who was killed during a routine traffic stop in Texas. His father, Pete, was never satisfied with the authorities’ accounting of his son’s death, and when he finds a barely-plastered-over “cubbyhole” in his deceased offspring’s home, he thinks he’s found the real reason for the young fella’s untimely demise : hidden videotape recordings that shows the “truth” about what those mysterious lights in the sky were all those years ago. Pete’s determined to put put this material into the public’s supposedly eager hands, and so while he may be on hand to say a a few words at the starting and finishing lines, the rest of the movie is the “unedited footage” just as he found it.


Trust me when I say you’re gonna wish he’d left the whole thing alone. What we’ve got here is tedious “road trip” nonsense featuring four dumbfuck “bros” who have rented an RV to go spend a weekend in the Arizona desert. All they wanna do is get drunk, talk about girls, give each other shit, and crack dick and fart jokes, but instead on their very first night “away from civilization” (but evidently not that far away — listen closely and you’ll be able to hear somebody’s dog barking in their back yard) they hear loud explosions and see a meteorite (or something) crash into the nearby hills. This affords us the only mildly interesting and competently-executed scene in the film, but things go from almost-worth-staying-awake-for to depressingly dull in a hurry when we get the usual shaking of the RV and noises on its roof right after the big boom. When they wake up, the Winnebago’s dead and one of our quartet of clowns is missing, but don’t worry — his friends will be joining him soon enough, as on night two, shortly after witnessing those famous light in the sky, they’re dragged off, one by one, by a vaguely-visible shape that’s just, ya know, gotta be an extraterrestrial invader of some sort. With the tape still rolling the whole time, of course. The end. Sound like something you want to check out? Nah, I didn’t think so. You are, after all, much smarter than I am.


Look, I get it — evil aliens have become a staple of the “mockumentary” subgenre in recent years, and if I had no money and wanted to make a film with my friends for some reason, this might be the way I decided to go. Or not.  Thankfully, I have a job and other shit to do, so it’s not like it’s something I need to think about. It’s just too bad that whoever really is behind this thing (my money is on one of the film’s nominal and nameless “stars” being the guilty party) didn’t listen to the little voice in their head telling them that they were wasting their time by doing this.

I’ll tell you one thing, though — if I ever made anything as dull, predictable, amateurish, and just plain lousy as The Phoenix Tapes ’97, I wouldn’t put my name on it anywhere, either.

  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

  2. Nutzxnatr says:

    If this kid wanted the public to see it why didn’t he do this when he found the tapes? Maybe it’s obvious that I have not seen the “the Phoenix tapes”. Amazon has some really bad movie!

  3. Barry says:

    Its when two guys get dragged off at seperate times but both are facing the camera when it happens but you cant see the outline of the huge alien that supposedly did it. Coincidence, nsh, staged.

  4. EMMA MENCHACA says:

    The guy who made the reality ghost film The Blackwell Ghost is in this pic. Just another one of his reality project. Ghost movie was cool.

  5. Anthony says:

    There is absolutely no way that this could be real. Is there? Then explane to me how the tapes’s were found in the videographer’s bedroom wall. Did he make it back from camping after this incident happened ?

    Thank you

    P.S I thought the movie had a real reality feel to it. From the camera angles you can tell that it was well thought out.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      Uhmmm — no, it’s not real, but I’m glad it seemed fairly authentic to you. Just didn’t work for me at all.

    • MightyKMD says:

      I thought the same thing but when I looked back at the story the man Dustin Miller who had the tapes was not one of the hikers. He had worked for the gov’t. His father said he never quite new what he did. He left the job and then died in a car accident and the dad think there was mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. A year after Dustin died his Dad found the tapes in his son’s bedroom wall.

      • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

        Oh yeah, you’re right, it’s been so long since I watched this thing that the details escape me.

  6. Anybody a little skepted out by the fact that they all died (well, one went “missing”) but the tapes made it back? Or did I miss something? Which one supposedly made it back and got shot? If they lost all of their stuff while running away from the aliens, how were the tapes saved? And when did they find the time to switch out the tapes between all the panic attacks? Hmm. . .

  7. MangoMary says:

    The dead government agent (drive by shooting at an intersection) had lifted the tapes from his job, quit and was hiding from the gov when he was killed. He felt that he was being sought for the disappearance of the tapes. The tapes were obtained by local police (when they investigated the trashed RV) who were quickly usurped by the government, who took over the investigation almost immediately. They said the camera was found about 5 miles from the RV with the tapes strewn nearby. ( Geesh….don’t you guys follow the details???) That said, why would a father videotape a patched drywall spot? And the untouched tapes inside the wall? Why is the license plate blurred out as they are driving the RV out of the driveway? Remember at the end, the ID of the 4 missing men remain a mystery…..a check of the RV plates will lead to the registered owner or who rented it. Also, I heard the dog barking too. Noticed it right away. Not a coyote. Nevertheless, I liked the movie.

  8. This film was certainly no classic, but it was much better than you’re giving it credit for. The acting was pretty damn convincing for a low budget found footage film and the 4 guys did come across as being friends and family. There were some nifty visual / audio effects such as the loud booms, the row of lights and falling meteors in the sky, and the leaves blowing toward the camera when the UFO took off at the end. On top of that, the fact that they filmed it on a camera from the era instead of using digital and adding crappy after effects was a really nice touch and made the found footage stuff seem all the more authentic.

    Overall, it was better than I was expecting (and to be fair, I wasn’t expecting much) and if the filmmakers had put just a little more effort into certain things, this could have been a classic. Even the marketing idea, while hokey, did amp up the mystery of the film – though when I say that, I don’t mean as far as “is it real or not?” (of course it’s fake), but in the sense that I wanted to know who these semi-talented actors and director were. 3.5/5 from me.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it more than I did, thanks for taking the time to leave a thoughtful and well-stated comment!

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