The Fourth Kind is a polarizing movie that is arriving in theaters after a clever but somewhat controversial promotional campaign. Whether you like the movie or not is largely going to depend on whether you buy into what you see on the screen. I didn’t, but I absolutely believe many people will. As actress Milla Jovovich (as herself) says in an intro to the movie: “What you believe is yours to decide.”
The unconventional film begins with Jovovich explaining there have been several people that have disappeared in Nome, Alaska, since the 60’s. She explains that she will be portraying Dr. Abigail Tyler, who has actual video footage of alien encounters. Seems that while she was placing some patients under hypnosis (for a sleep study) she uncovers some shocking truths about what has been happening to them at night, and why they are so freaked out. Conveniently, these sessions have been videotaped, which provides the “archival” footage in the film.
Making another unusual choice, director Olatunde Osunsanmi uses split screen throughout much of the movie. On the left side, you see the archived footage. On the right side, Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, and Will Patton “reenact” the events in real time with the footage. I will give the director props for trying something new, but it didn’t work for me.
I found it distracting and confusing, because I never knew where I should be focusing my attention. I also kept wondering why they had the reenactment at all, if the actual footage is right there to begin with.
The archival footage conveniently starts fading or the signal is interrupted every time something scary is about to happen. This is a clever way to trick your mind into seeing what you think is going on. This is also an attempt to make you believe the alien(s) are causing the disruptions. I will say there are a few token scares, but overall this is not a very scary movie.
There are some other things I have a problem with. Milla Jovovich’s character is recently widowed, and we find out that her husband died under suspicious and violent circumstances. The sheriff (a ridiculously callous Will Patton) seems to be pointing a finger at Jovovich, who is clearly traumatized by the circumstances of her husband’s death. She even believes that aliens were responsible for his death.
Instead of taking a break from her counseling practice, she continues conducting dangerous hypnosis sessions on patients. Clearly she is not capable of counseling others, and there are hints indicating that she is losing her own mind. It all comes across highly suspect. It seems to me she would be breaching some very big ethical boundaries.
Jovovich’s acting is just okay. She looks nothing like the “real” doctor, even though they try to frump her up a bit. Will Patton is completely over the top as the Sheriff. I can’t believe any town would tolerate a Sheriff who treated everyone with such contempt and hatred. He’s not exactly a calming influence or a force of reason when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan.
Director Osunsanmi appears as himself, conducting an interview with the real Dr. Tyler, presumably for this movie. I did find the real Dr. Tyler (whoever she may be) pretty creepy. She had no life in her eyes, and was gaunt, frail and looked utterly defeated. Just what you would expect someone who had gone through the reported events to look like.
Overall, the movie failed to convince me that I was watching real footage, which was my main issue. If you think I’m just a skeptic, I’m not. I wanted to believe. But in the end, I just didn’t.