The Fourth Kind
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Seventy-one years after Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast convinced the American public of a real-time alien-invasion, writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi tries a similar gimmick by presenting a cinematic re-creation of supposedly true occurrences in and around the small town of Nome, Alaska, that suggest an alien presence. The Fourth Kind tells us it’s based on the research of a psychologist, Dr. Abigail Tyler, who discovered bizarre consistencies in the testimonies of several sleep-deprived patients. Under a series of hypnosis treatments, those patients recovered memories of stalking demonic owls driving them to suicide, occasionally levitation and sometimes leaving them paralyzed.
According to the world of science fiction, there are four different encounters between humans and aliens. The first simply refers to a sighting; the second is when a human spots evidence of an alien presence while the third (a la Spielberg) is when the human makes contact with the alien race. The fourth kind refers to abduction, anal probes, white beams sucking up human bodies into the sky, and missing person’s cases. The Fourth Kind melds the basic alien-abduction with elements of supernatural horror, faux-documentary filmmaking and the constantly recycled notions of linking ancient mythology with alien visitors. The result is not entirely uninteresting when it keeps to the realm of horror but it suffers from some ill-advised decisions in the sci-fi elements of the film.
There’s a problem with The Fourth Kind‘s structure. Osunsanmi has elected not to present his film as a straightforward narrative. Instead, he wraps the story in faux-documentary footage mixed with scenes that are presented as re-creations with professional actors such as Milla Jovovich. The end result is less effective than it might sound, and showing the documentary footage (which is also re-enacted) alongside the re-creations via a split-screen makes for a lot of distraction and ultimately takes the viewer out of the film. If anything, the film feels more like an experiment than an actual movie. Films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity succeed because the user accepts the illusion of being given an unfiltered perspective into characters’ lives. Mixing traditional filmmaking techniques with this approach results in a forced, contrived production. Even worse, it raises the question for even the most gullible viewer of why, if this is a true story with plenty of video evidence, we’re not simply shown the actual footage.
The irony is that the documentary moments of patients videotaped under hypnosis are often effectively spooky and at times contain some genuine shock moments whereas the traditional ¨directed” scenes only traffic in noise pollution, excessive, cheap flash photography effects and laughable hysterics. There’s ample amounts of screaming, mostly on the doctor’s couch, with furniture demolished and unrealistic and impossible bodily contortions, yet none of it comes close to inducing much terror into the audience. Osunsanmi relies too heavily on the “it’s all true!” gimmick, neglecting more important elements such as acting, story structure and dialogue.
In the end this is a movie about a crazy woman, not alien abductions. Nothing lives up to the warning at the picture’s outset: “Please be advised that some of what you are about to see is extremely disturbing,” and at best would have made an excellent contribution for Unsolved Mysteries.