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THE FOURTH KIND (2009) ***1/2 movie review by COOP

Posted on November 10th, 2009
Posted on November 10th, 2009

High on the heels of the runaway box office hit “Paranormal Activity,” another “found footage” scare flick has entered the scene just shy of the Halloween season. Touting itself as a dramatization of supposedly real taped hypnosis sessions that reveal alien abductions, the creators of “The Fourth Kind” made a sizable gamble. “The Blair Witch Project” was ten years ago and found footage films had not regained a foothold in the genre until “Paranormal Activity” came around. Add to the fact no one expected the escalating hype and sudden wide release of “PA” and “The Fourth Kind” gets the lucky boost it needs for box office success. There’s one major difference between these two films: “Paranormal Activity” never tried to sell itself as “real.”

The title refers to the scientific levels of alien contact as approved by Hollywood and pop culture: A close encounter of the first kind = a UFO/alien sighting, the second kind = tangible evidence of an encounter, the third kind = direct contact (made popular by the Steven Spielberg movie), and the fourth kind involves forcible abduction.

Actress Milla Jovovich appears at the very beginning to introduce herself to the audience and explain that she will be portraying a “real” person (Dr. Abby Tyler), recreating “real” experiences in investigating and enduring alien abductions. Abby, a widowed psychiatrist in Alaska, starts noticing coincidental patterns in her patients with sleep disorders. In an attempt to discover the cause of their night terrors, Abby puts these patients under hypnosis… with frightening and devastating results. Soon Abby learns the same sinister force that plagues her patients might also have been responsible for the death of her husband and the disappearance of countless others.

The story rotates between Milla playing Abby to the “real” Abby (actress unknown) being interviewed at a Chapman University seminar by director Olatunde Osunsami. The ashen, corpse-like woman who supposedly portrays the real Abby causes so much tension when she’s on screen because she looks so ghastly and speaks so strangely that you half expect her to turn into a monster right before you eyes. The other alleged real events on camera/audio tapes are shown simultaneously with the reenactments. The screen splits in two during the fictional portrayal of the events alongside the alleged genuine footage.

If you haven’t figured it out now from my hints, there is absolutely no truth behind “The Fourth Kind,” either in general or in its specifics. None of the events, evidence or even Abby Tyler can be found on the internet. If the evidence in the film WAS real, it would be the most compelling UFO/alien abduction evidence of all time and would be a top story all over the national news. Even the actress playing the “real” Abby hammed up her performance to a point that it often became unintentionally funny. It was all too fantastic; the evidence, the story, the motivations of the characters… everything points to a loosely-constructed hoax aimed at the same audiences who didn’t realize “The Blair Witch Project” was fake until after they saw it. I spend far too much time studying motion picture special effects, acting performances, and looking at UFO/paranormal footage to be fooled easily. Just like the “balloon boy” incident… if you think it seems too fantastic to be true, trust your instincts.

The filmmakers tried to push the “this is real!” aspect of the film so far, they missed a golden opportunity to take the film into an even wilder direction once its phoniness became painfully obvious. Perhaps by pulling out all the stops and going for pure scares full of monsters and unrestrained fantasy during the last 20 minutes could’ve set this one above most of the films of its type. It would have also put a fun spin on the highly dubious concept.

I’m not particularly moved by the idea of people believing they are abducted out of their beds by aliens for two reasons: 1. Everyone has seen versions of the case studies one way or another know the protocol well enough to fake it for attention. 2. “Hypnagogic sleep paralysis,” also known as “Old Hag Syndrome” (look it up on Google) debunks 99.99999% of these cases. It’s happened to me before. It’s probably happened to many of you. Some people are extremely sensitive to it and while it’s scary… it’s not alien abduction. In fact it’s a common and treatable condition.

Yep, everything about “The Fourth Kind” is phony. It’s also terrifying and that’s how the film succeeds. The top-notch atmosphere, music, tone and pacing provokes an intense sense of dread. Jovovich almost out-performs her supposedly real counterpart and while that’s not a big endorsement, I feel it was diliberate. Jovovich could not be allowed to out-perform the other actress or the jig would be up. Nevertheless, it worked and the phobia-inducing scenes had me on the edge of my seat throughout, even though it ultimately disappointed. As a found footage film, it didn’t try hard enough to convince. As a horror film, it achieves scares nearly as potent as “Paranormal Activity” and that scores a win in my book.

Rating: 3 and ½ out of 5 stars

Coop’s other recent film ratings:

“The Box”: Too uneven and sloppy for a feature-length adaptation of the famous ”Twilight Zone” episode from legendary writer Richard Matheson. 2 out of 5 stars

“The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day”: Not very polished and only for fans of the original 1999 cult hit which ultimately made megalomaniac director Troy Duffy a Hollywood pariah. 3 out of 5 stars

-Coop

Oh yeah, and the famously scary “The Fourth Kind” trailer. Ooooooo…

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    6 Comments •

    Comments

    1. Trace

      Well, finally saw this one tonight at the dollar theater (50 cent night on Tuesdays…kaching!). I have to say that I liked it, very satisfying. I went in ‘knowing’ full well this was another ‘found footage’ film and that there’s no way this was real. Yet it was still eery…and I like THAT! I’d rank this film in my short list of bizarre alien thriller favorites (Altered, The Forgotten, Fire in the Sky…guess you could throw Communion in there too…I’m sure there’s a few more that I’m forgetting at the moment). I enjoyed the alternative techniques they used in filming this movie: split screens (sometimes in four quadrants) using ‘dramatization’ and ‘found footage’, audio recordings, the distorted video, etc. Extremely atypical when compared to the big Hollywood box-office hits…which adds to the charm of it. This kind of filmmaking feels more ‘real’ to me than all the 3-D magic in the world! Definitely an enjoyable thriller.

    2. chris

      What do you think?can you prove something like this isnt real?c’mon seriously do you believe or fail to believe all thats out there? were would someone get the ideas ? you said yourself you couldnt find this actres the real abby tyler ? makes you wonder bro; now iadmit the movie is ungodly spooky butthere has to be truth somewere to many college kids making horry movies these days the study facts twist it to give it more of a story……belive or not in aliens you have to believe in something…movies or real life if someone actually came out said something would we believe them? they would be studied for life judged god knows what else people know when to not say anything…for them selves and others….

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