Movie review of “The Phoenix Incident”: This Grade Z paranoid sci-fi thriller about UFOs speculates on the fate of four witless yahoos who come out on the short end of an encounter with angry, hungry aliens. Rating: 1 star out of 4.

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Big lights in sky; film at 11.

That was the real deal on March 13, 1997, when thousands in the Phoenix area reported seeing strange happenings in the night sky. (There were two distinct events on the night in question.) Even the state’s governor at the time, Fife Symington, said he looked up and saw the … whatever it was.

Additional strangeness: On that same night, four young men went missing in the nearby Estrella Mountain Regional Park, never to be seen again.

Movie Review ★  

‘The Phoenix Incident,’ with Troy Baker, Liam O’Brien, Travis Willingham, Yuri Lowenthal, James L. Brewster. Written and directed by Keith Arem. 82 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains language, violence, gore). Oak Tree.

Connection? “The Phoenix Incident” supposes there was one.

Think: alien abduction. Or worse.

Writer-director Keith Arem, whose background is in video games, let his imagination off the leash, and the result is a Grade Z paranoid sci-fi thriller awash in shadowy figures (one filmed in actual shadows) muttering cryptically about government conspiracies and cover-ups. Present, too, is a raving homicidal lunatic with a billy-goat beard and nut-cake eyes spouting gibberish.

As for the four unfortunates, they’re portrayed as witless yahoos whooping and hollering as they race through the desert on ATVs, until … well, until they look up and see the lights. Then there’s a crash (is it a spaceship?) and then they decide to go and investigate and then one of them quavers — yep, you guessed it — “I’ve just got a bad feeling about this. I think we should go home, right now.”

Words to the wise. Unheeded, of course.

And you know what that means. Of course you do. It means yelps and curses and gasps and shrieks. And blood.

I imagine the last 20 pages of the script read, “Scream here.” “And here.” “Also here.” “Louder.” “I can’t heearr you!”

And: “Run” “Fall down.” “Run some more.” “Bleed.”

All that running and screaming is captured in jittery handheld and grainy surveillance camera images. Found footage strikes again. I’d say that stylistic gimmick is overdue for retirement.

The aliens are ill-tempered. The aliens are hungry. Mmmmmm! Earthoids. Taste just like, um, Earthoids.

Watch out though, you bad beings from wherever you came from.

“The Phoenix Incident” is an indigestible mess.