The Fourth Kind
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Arriving late to the party is The Fourth Kind, an alien abduction exposé that depends for its thrills and chills on its effectiveness at convincing the audience that the events on screen are grounded in reality. Like last month's box office golden boy Paranormal Activity, The Fourth Kind takes a supernatural subject and applies the aesthetics of the amateur in an appeal to convince audiences they are viewing unfiltered reality. While Paranormal Activity is the fictional construct of a home video, The Fourth Kind purports to be a blend of archival footage and stylized dramatization.
The film opens with lead actress Milla Jovovich (shock #1: she pronounces her last name “Yo-va-vich”!), addressing the camera to explain that the film will alternate between fiction and actual events, concluding with the dare: "What you believe is yours to decide." The intro is edited from multiple takes and multiple angles (some out of focus, some swirling), as if to emphasize the dramatization's stylization, so that we can more readily consume the no-frills archival footage as real. Jovovich portrays Dr. Abigail Tyler, an Alaskan psychologist conducting research on a series of people suffering sleep deprivation that may or may not be due to alien abduction. Their experiences seem to occur around 3:00 in the morning (the universal witching hour for ghosts, demons, werewolves and aliens alike) and involve unexplained rashes, Sumerian voices, cryptic imagery and lingering psychological trauma.
The one guaranteed response from every audience member will be to question whether or not the film is a hoax. There's plenty to suggest it is (the amplified SFX on the archival footage, the omitted names but not blurred faces, the oddly chosen aliases) and also enough to suggest something profoundly unsetting actually occurred (if the real Abigail Tyler's interviews are a performance, then she's one hell of an actress). Everything we've read about digital technology and studio greed suggests we should greet any movie proclaiming to be “real” with an armor of disbelief. But in the heat of the moment, it's actually pretty convincing and really quite creepy. Wherever its truths and fictions really lie, The Fourth Kind — like Paranormal Activity — is an effective experiment/event rather than a film to be heralded. Creepy enough during their initial unspooling, these aren't movies that will reward multiple viewings — neither for entertainment nor education's sake.
Opens November 6