The Need To Believe
Whenever aliens grace the screen, they're either being blasted away or the ones doing the blasting. You never see the psychological impact such contact leaves on the human race -- at least until The Fourth Kind. In the style of Blair Witch and current smash Paranormal Activity, The Fourth Kind boasts what it claims to be footage of strange happenings brought upon by alien influence. It's a nifty enough premise, but it takes a step too many by including prominent actors to participate in "re-enactments." This, plus the film's insistence about everything being drawn from the truth, leads me to believe The Fourth Kind is bunch of baloney. And the movie doesn't even do a good job of masking it.
Writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi presents his work as an examination of unexplained events said to have taken place in Nome, Alaska. Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil franchise) assumes the role of Abigail Tyler, a shrink who's in dire need of counseling herself. She can't quite move on from her husband's death, and as it comes to pass, burying herself in her work may make things worse. Some of Abigail's patients seem to share a dream, that of an owl staring at them in the night. After a hypnosis session sends one patient off the deep end, the good doctor senses greater forces at work. Though, as a woman of reason, she doesn't want to believe it, Abigail deduces that aliens have paid Nome a visit -- and they want her next.
Has a friend ever told you a scary story, pinky swore it was the truth, and constantly reminded you of this so-called fact? The Fourth Kind is sort of like that. The more caught up Osunsamni becomes in maintaining the illusion that what we're seeing is based in reality, the more you doubt him. Most of what's purported as real here is phony (including interviews with the "actual" Abigail Tyler), although certain moments aren't any less effective because of that. But The Fourth Kind definitely loses credibility when it keeps jostling between "archive" footage and what's been filmed with familiar actors. Osunsamni would have been better off if he had totally committed to the story's mockumentary aspect. Paranormal Activity reaps the benefits of playing it straight, while the presence of stars in Osunsamni's film gives your skepticism a run for its money.
Even on its own terms, The Fourth Kind comes across as pretty ho-hum stuff. Jovovich is backed up by a decent enough cast, including Elias Koteas as a kindly colleague and Will Patton as a suspicious lawman. Koteas aside, though, melodrama runs rampant among most of the actors. They're not terrible, but they take the material much too seriously. C'mon, folks, these are aliens we're talking about! Can't anyone lighten up just a little? Guess I should be grateful that The Fourth Kind is so upfront about its subject. Instead of letting viewers down with a bogus twist, you know from the start that little green man play a part in some capacity. Also, while there are deliberate and freaky scares (via Tyler's video recordings of her patients), a good deal of focus remains on how these close encounters scar characters in a big way. The thesis seems like a sound one, even if Osunsamni gradually forgets about it.
The Fourth Kind may be the tallest tale to put in an appearance since the whole Boggy Creek malarkey. Conspiracy theorists who've exhausted their X-Files DVDs will be happy, though I can't say the same for Mr. and Mrs. Moviegoer. Too heady to have fun with and too simple to take seriously, The Fourth Kind isn't likely to make believers out of anyone in the audience. Of course, that's just what they want you to think...
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG-13" for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality.)