– Summary –
Director : Olatunde Osunsanmi
Year Of Release : 2009
Principal Cast : Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, Will Patton, Corey Johnson, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Raphael Coleman, Mia Mckenna Bruce, Enzo Cilenti.
Approx Running Time : 98 Minutes
Synopsis: A female psychologist begins to put together the pieces of a puzzle: many residents of her hometown have sleep issues, issues which are manifested due to potential alien abduction. With the police failing to believe her testimony, and the body count rising, she becomes increasingly paranoid that the aliens are coming after her and her family.
What we think : Sporadically chilling, The Fourth Kind is a generally turgid affair that tries to frighten with purported “real footage” of people undergoing hypnosis to support the movie’s claims of alien abduction. The scares are fairly effective, although the large gaps of story between them are slow and tedious to work through. Milla Jovovich delivers a decent enough performance to save the film from complete oblivion, but Elias Koteas and Will Patton are given terrible characters that frustrate the viewer instead of giving us something to work with. The Fourth Kind tries for the same visceral thrills of The Blair Witch Project, but falls short of delivering a truly scary movie. In parts, it’s plain silly.
When aliens abduct me, I hope they’re not like the ones in The Fourth Kind. I’d much prefer the ones we saw in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, they seemed friendlier. The Fourth Kind is a mockumentary that isn’t funny (a pseudo-documentary?), which attempts to scare the bejeebers out of viewers with a jumpy, spooky explanation of a series of unexplained events in Nome, Alaska. A group of townspeople all experience the same sleep issues – they wake at 3.33am each morning to see an owl sitting outside their window, with the unexplainable fear and terror of something unseen pervading their consciousness. Psychologist Abbey Tyler (Milla Jovovich), herself suffering the same recurring nightmare about the murder of her husband, Will, uses hypnosis to try and uncover the hidden memories these people feel, but when she does, people start dying. Nome’s chief of police, Sheriff August (Will Patton) doesn’t believe Abbey’s theory that these people have all been abducted by aliens, and her consulting partner, Dr Abel Campos (Elia Koteas) seems reluctant to endorse her theories. When she videotapes a hypnosis session which goes horribly wrong, the calls in a specialist language expert in Awolowa Odusami (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), who determines that Abbey’s patients are using an ancient Sumerian dialect, the oldest known language on the planet.
Told through “actual footage” and dramatizations – the characters played by Jovovich, Patton et al are recreated by other actors for the “real” footage material used within the film. It’s an effective technique, using old VHS recordings of hypnotherapy sessions and other camera placements (police car cameras, security cameras, etc) to bring realism to this story; it taps into the audience’s innate belief that footage on VHS or security cameras must be “real”, and it’s this which provides some of the films most spine-chilling moments. Alien abduction is, according to this film, quite frightening, and the film serves us some moments of genuinely terrifying material. The problem is, it’s wrapped up in this bookend plot device of an interview with the “real” Abby Tyler (actress Charlotte Milchard) relating these events to an interviewer – the film’s actual director, Olatunde Osunasanmi. This style would be okay, if it weren’t for the fact that the story just draaaaaaags along in these sections. The turgid nature of the story, the oppressive themes and underlying hopelessness of the story aren’t countered by accessible characters or a sense of optimism within the script.
The Fourth Kind is slow to develop, trying to psychological chills when it should be going for the jugular with abduction stuff – the film has abduction sequences, and they are enjoyably creepy, but by the time they occur, the audience is lost to it all. And don’t get me started on the ending – ten minutes of wrap-up after the main character’s explosive revelation is revealed, all trying with sombre seriousness to ensure the audience doesn’t forget that all this is “real”, and I was ready to fall asleep. The Fourth Kind listlessly wanders from plot point to plot point, delivering vague chills and appropriately “jumpy” scare moments, but it’s all for naught. The Fourth Kind never explains itself; it even tell us that we have to make up our own minds, which is a cheap way of not actually delivering any rational narrative wrap-up. While I did jump here and there, and the psychological effectiveness of the hypnosis sequences was nicely done (if overused), I was left thinking of how nice the film might have been had it not relied so heavily on “dramatization” – perhaps had they used less of that, and more “real” footage to sell their ideas, it could have been really spooky. The Fourth Kind is an unmemorable, sparsely-scary chill-fest, with a nice performance by Milla Jovovich. If you’re a believer in alien abductions, you’ll find a lot to enjoy about this movie – even the most rabid alien conspiracy theorist would agree, though, that the momentum-free plot and the cross-cutting between “real” and “dramatized” is annoying after five minutes.