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Fourth Kind, The
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by Mel Valentin

"More like Close Encounters of the Mediocre Kind."
3 stars

For more than half a century the fascination with aliens (e.g., UFOs, visitations, etc.) has continued almost unabated, pivoting, at least fictionally, with Steven Spielberg’s definitive take on alien contact, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Chris Carter’s long-running television series, "The X-Files," connected alien encounters, alien abductions, and government conspiracies into series’ overarching mythology. With "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" looming large (like a mothership [sorry, couldn’t resist]) over the sub-genre, filmmakers have largely avoided the subject (with "Fire in the Sky" a semi-notable exception). Undaunted, first-time filmmaker Olatunde Osunsanmi, decided to do just that with "The Fourth Kind," a hybrid science-fiction/horror/docudrama purportedly “based on actual case studies."

The Fourth Kind opens with Osunsanmi and actress Milla Jovovich standing in front of a green-screened background somberly informing us that everything we’re about to see actually happened in Nome, Alaska nine years ago and they have the evidence (e.g., audio, video, transcripts, etc.) to back it up. Before she steps into her role as Abigail Tyler, a Nome, Alaska-based psychiatrist at the center of The Fourth Kind, Jovovich solemnly informs the audience that what we’re about to see is “extremely disturbing.” First rule of filmmaking: never make a statement early on that you can’t back up in the next 90-120 minutes, as The Fourth Kind doesn’t. Once past the clunky, superficially earnest introduction, The Fourth Kind interweaves an interview with a woman (not Jovovich) identified as the “real” Abigail Taylor, “documentary” footage taken by Taylor of her patients, and dramatic recreations both of the interviews and the context for those interviews.

In the narrative section, Taylor (Jovovich) is still recovering from the mysterious death of her husband months earlier. She claims someone broke into their house and killed her husband, but, for reasons unknown, spared her and her two children. Despite her emotional fragility, Taylor continues the sleep-disorder study she was conducting with her late husband. Sleep disorders may be the norm in northern Alaska (due to the long, low-sunlight winters) but several patients claim they’re awoken every night at the same time by an owl or owl-like creature watching them from outside their bedroom windows. Their memories, however, all stop there. Taylor convinces her patients that hypnosis might give them the answers they're desperately seeking and help her find a solution to their disturbed sleeping patterns.

Her patients agree to undergo hypnosis, but in one case, it sends one patient inexplicably into a homicidal state, which in turn brings Taylor to the attention of Sheriff August (Will Patton), who criticizes Taylor for taking unnecessary risks with her patients and refusing to acknowledge the truth of her husband’s death. The incident also brings Taylor’s friend, mentor, and psychiatrist Abel Campos (Elias Koteas) to Nome. A natural skeptic (he’s Scully to Taylor’s Mulder), Campos slowly begins to recognize that rational explanations (i.e., mental illness) are insufficient to explain the behavior of Taylor’s patients, but he’s still unready to accept the only alternative left: alien abduction. Not surprisingly, the obsessed, obsessive Taylor refuses to heed the sheriff’s warnings and continues pushing her remaining patients to undergo additional hypnosis.

Mixing in horror tropes with science fiction ones, the hypnotized patients literally speak in tongues (or rather one tongue, ancient Sumerian) during the séance-like hypnosis sessions, compelling Taylor to seek help from a professor who specializes in ancient languages. That, in turn, spins The Fourth Kind into overly familiar territory: not just present-day alien abductions, but ancient visitations by aliens (as apparently reflected in ancient art). Osunsanmi borrowed the idea from Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods?: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, a one-time bestseller published more than 40 years ago. Däniken's ideas inspired a young Steven Spielberg as he developed Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Scholars, of course, debunked Däniken’s unsubstantiated ideas almost as soon as Chariots of the Gods? appeared in print, but that’s done little to halt speculation about ancient extraterrestrial visitors.

Osunsanmi cuts between grainy documentary footage and dramatic recreations of the interviews or splits the screen and them play out simultaneously, all the better, presumably, to push the more gullible members of the audience into believing that what they’re seeing onscreen is really “real” and not fabricated simply to scare them (which, to be fair, Osunsanmi manages to accomplish several times). Regardless of the footage’s authenticity, the grainy, “original” footage adds some plausibility and with that plausibility, dread, as "The Fourth Kind" moves toward the inevitably unsatisfying denouement, one that leaves audiences with few answers and even less of an emotional payoff (assuming, of course, they still care, if only on a dramatic level).

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19507&reviewer=402
originally posted: 11/06/09 10:00:00
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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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