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Fourth Kind, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not Very Probing"
1 stars

Moviegoers of a certain age with a certain predilection for schlock cinema will no doubt recall with fondness the output of the late, great Sunn Classics studio. For those who weren’t around or weren’t paying attention, Sunn Classics was a Utah-based production company that specialized in low-budget pseudo-documentaries during the latter half of the 1970’s backed by breathless ad campaigns that promised incontrovertible proof that there was indeed life after death, that Noah’s Ark actually existed and that there really were aliens stashed away in Hanger 18. The only trouble is that when people actually went to these films at their local theater--which were rented out by Sunn so that they could collect all the box-office receipts--the films turned out to be slipshod constructions composed mostly of nonsensical interviews with “experts” sitting in front of bookshelves heaped with books that appeared to have never been touched, “dramatic recreations” featuring no-name actors trying to keep straight faces and shocking evidence that never quite managed to conclusively prove much of anything.

Astonishingly, they were able to get away with such cinematic con jobs for a few years--by the time word started getting around that the film was a fraud, they had already pulled up stakes and moved on to the next unsuspecting locale and by the time the next one was ready, all had been forgotten--but as the decade came to an end, viewers finally began to catch on and after a few stabs at mainstream cinema and television (including “Grizzly Adams”) they eventually folded up shop and their films, while difficult to see today, now live on in the memories of those who got suckered into forking over their lunch money in order to see them back in the day. I have no idea if the people behind the new alien abduction thriller “The Fourth Kind” have ever seen any of the Sunn Classics epics but for all intents and purposes, their film looks and feels like a full-scale homage to them, albeit with a higher caliber of acting talent than they could ever muster and with a slightly higher effects budget. However, the most significant element that it has in common with those earlier films is that it is one of the silliest and most preposterous things to appear on a movie screen in recent memory and that anyone foolish enough to pay money to go see it under the delusion that they will be encountering definitive proof that We Are Not Alone will pretty much get exactly what they deserve.

It kicks off with star Milla Jovovich introducing the film and telling us that everything that we are about to see has been corroborated by tapes, videos and sworn testimony in a speech that will remind some viewers of the way that the immortal Criswell kicked off the legendary “Plan 9 from Outer Space”--the only real difference is that it could be argued that Criswell had better writers. Anyway, Jovovich plays Dr. Abigail Emily Tyler, a psychologist who, although still reeling from the unsolved murder of her husband two months earlier and the subsequent hysterical blindness of her young daughter, nevertheless is determined to return to her practice in Nome, Alaska. Before long, she begins to notice that many of her patients are showing similar symptoms--they claim to be awoken in the middle of the night by white owls perched outside their homes but when she puts them under hypnosis, they fall into hysterics at the memory of things that they can’t quite recall in detail and refuse to talk about anyway--but even though she tries to find rational explanations as to what is going on, she gradually becomes convinced that these patients have been abducted by aliens and that she herself was a victim as well. Naturally, the local sheriff (Will Patton) is highly skeptical of her claims, especially when those patients begin turning up dead or badly injured but Abigail recruits her mentor (Elias Koteas) and an expert in dead languages()--it seems the aliens speak Sumerian to boot--in an effort to collect conclusive proof but they wind up backfiring on her in horrible ways.

Okay, remember all that stuff I mentioned earlier about corroborating evidence? Well, writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi has inserted much of it into the body of the film itself, albeit in the most awkward manner possible. He gives us audiotapes and videotapes that were reputedly rolling as key events in the story were unfolding and even frames the film with an on-camera interview that he conducts with the real and honest-to-goodness Dr. Abigail Emily Tyler herself under the auspices of the renowned Chapman University. Not only does he present us with this material as a way of proving that everything is true, he often gives us a split-screen approach in which the recreation with Jovovich & Co. is playing on one half of the screen while the “authentic” footage is on the other. If you get confused, the film makes telling the two apart slightly easier by inserting title cards on the recreations that remind us that virtually every character save for Abigail has had his or her name changed while making sure that the time code always appears on the real footage. (With the exception of “Paranormal Activity,” I don’t think that time code has been this prominent in a film since “Strange Brew.”) I know that it all sounds astounding but without giving too much away, I will merely note that when it comes to the Good Parts that everyone is waiting for, the tapes that we see are about as revealing as a shower door in a PG-13 movie.

The problem with “The Fourth Kind” is not that it is trying to pass off a load of utter hooey as the unvarnished truth--both “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and “Fargo” employed a similar gimmick and it didn’t hurt them at all. No, where “The Fourth Kind” fails so epically is that it takes a story that might have resulted in a substandard episode of “The X-Files” if it had been told in a more straightforward manner and presents it in such a bizarrely convoluted manner that it comes across as the world’s most obtuse episode of “The X-Files.” The whole gimmick of playing the “real” footage alongside the recreations may have sounded like an intriguing idea in theory but it is a complete disaster in practice. It only serves to further muddle material that isn’t exactly clear to begin with and since it is pretty obvious right from the start that it is all most likely a fraud (as even the most cursory Googling will quickly reveal), it means that we are essentially being asked to watch a low-budget horror film and its glossier remake at the same time. Besides, the “real” footage that we see is so cheesy that even the dullest audience members are unlikely to buy any of it for a second.

As it progresses, it gets sillier and sillier because whatever sense of tension and paranoia that is being developed in the “real” footage is not being echoed in the recreations, which consists of generally reliable actors who seem to be channeling all of their talents to keep from bursting out into laughter at the nonsense that they are being asked to perform. Not even Milla Jovovich, an actress that I have demonstrated a certain affection for in the past, is able to help save the proceedings with her presence--she is wildly miscast here as one of the least convincing psychologists in recent screen history and her fierce and fiery persona is utterly wasted on a character who spends practically the entire film as a passive and dull-witted bystander. I have no idea if she actually believed in any of the nonsense on display here but I suspect that at some point, she probably found herself hoping and praying that aliens really did exist and that they might arrive to beam her the hell out of this nonsense and something a little more plausible, like “Resident Evil 4.”

With its combination of embarrassingly bad performances, a bewildering and needlessly complicated stylistic gambit and scientific conclusions so goofy that they would give Peter Venkman pause, “The Fourth Kind” is brainless bunco from start to finish that is so beyond the pale that the biggest mystery is why a reputable movie studio would have anything to do with such a shoddy con job in the first place. (As it turns out, Universal bought the rights to the film to fill in the gap in their release schedule caused by the delay of the remake of “The Wolf Man.”) Outside of the minor entertainment value derived from the various hoops that the film goes through in order to explain why you have never heard about these amazing events and why the surviving participants won’t be hitting the talk show circuit in order to verify their claims (as it turns out, Dr. Abigail Emily Tyler is confined to her home because of a “deteriorating condition,” the other people refused to participate and have been given aliases to disguise their identities and one even went so far as to go off to teach at “a prestigious Canadian university”), the best thing about it is that if aliens from another world ever do come to Earth and get a look at it, they may decide that any species capable of creating anything this dumb is probably too stupid to probe and conquer in the first place.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19507&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/06/09 00:00:00
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell kind of dull the owl was scary though 2 stars
9/16/12 VLTampa Really ticked off to find out this was advertised as a real movie and its not 1 stars
8/26/12 David Pollastrini Not the best "found footage" film I've seen. 3 stars
10/25/10 M Didnt sleep that night! 4 stars
5/29/10 othree Slow, fun to see, bad to believe, full of holes 3 stars
4/06/10 Corky Stultifyingly bad; I'm waiting for my brain cells to start working again... 1 stars
4/04/10 FranknFurter Shockingly underrated! It is effectively creepy and entertaining. More horror than sci-fi. 4 stars
3/29/10 gc Very bad movie that is also completely fake.Rent Fire in the Sky instead 1 stars
3/20/10 action movie fan good paranormal activity style shocker-eerie and compelling 4 stars
12/30/09 Kay bad script, bad acting, bad directing, more occult than sci-fi - I wanted my money back. 1 stars
12/11/09 Caleb Bateman i love it how its so "apparently true" thats a bunch of bs,the girls sico, 1/5 1 stars
11/11/09 gary Well ...I have seen worse,,,,but enough of the so called docu-dramas 3 stars
11/09/09 Luisa Creepy! 4 stars
11/08/09 David A. It's either eerie or campy, depending on how you take it, but it's definitely creative! 4 stars
11/07/09 DK A sci-fi failure, Jovovich is quite good but it isn't scary or believable 1 stars
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  06-Nov-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-Mar-2010


  DVD: 16-Mar-2010

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