Horror. Worldview. Faith.

The Fourth Kind – Review

The Fourth Kind – Review

May 27, 2010

reviewed by Skot
directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, 2009

The Fourth Kind is a sci-fi horror picture starring action movie princess, Milla Jovovich.  I don’t know how many reviewers would classify it as science fiction, but I do so, though with hesitation, because U.F.O. movies tend to be a sci-fi sub-genre.  The director of Fourth Kind attempts to follow the examples of The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Quarantine, and Paranormal Activity by presenting supposed documentary on-the-scene footage.  Then Fourth takes the technique to the next level by adding in dramatized re-enactments portrayed by Hollywood stars, cutting back and forth between the documentary footage and dramatizations, even occasionally running the two side by side for certain scenes.

Milla Jovovich plays psychologist, Abigail Tyler, who is investigating a series of unexplained phenomena she hears about from a number of her patients.  Early in the film, Dr. Tyler notices that several of her patients report trouble sleeping and peculiar images in their dreams, including that of a white owl watching over them.  We’ve all had weird dreams that we couldn’t quite shake off the next day.  So it is mildly creepy to hear different people describe seeing the same detail, and an unusual one at that, in their night terrors.  (Allow me to say that I was watching this movie with my 14-year-old son who was opening an eighth grade graduation card he received at this point in the film.  The card had an owl on it.  Woooooo-oooo).  The patients are all plagued with the feeling of not being able to remember something significant that happens during their dreams.

Dr. Tyler tries using hypnosis to bring these repressed memories into the light of day.  Not good.  Bad things happen.  People die.  Could it be that some things are so terrible that the memory of them causes madness?  An incomplete memory is bliss after all.

I applaud the filmmakers for taking a risk and doing something out of the ordinary.  It’s not exactly a nail-biter but there are a few genuinely disturbing moments.

The Fourth Kind is a different kind of U.F.O. movie that has more in common with supernatural chillers like The Exorcist than it does with sci-fi adventures like Star Trek or War of the Worlds or television’s V. This movie suggests that inhabitants of Nome, Alaska, and possibly millions of other earthlings, are being visited and even abducted by other-worldly entities which may or may not have arrived in your run-of-the-mill spacecraft.  Some scenes resemble episodes of demonic possession or spiritists channeling otherwordly intelligences more than merely patients in psychoanalysis coping with painful recovered memories.  This opens the possibility that these extraterrestrials could be from another dimension or universe instead of merely a distant galaxy.  The influence of Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods and The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel can be seen.  Like a good postmodern sci-fi horror movie, The Fourth Kind delves more into metaphysics than astrophysics.

Like many examples of the horror genre, The Fourth Kind challenges the ability of reason to explain every aspect of human experience.  This movie explicitly argues the point that some phenomena, real and true, lie outside the scope of the scientific method.  Those who cling irrationally to the sufficiency of rationalism are the bad guys here.

Unfortunately, the interspersing of documentary style footage in and around the dramatized parts of the movie failed.  It didn’t make the movie scarier.  It was just distracting at first, but became annoying later on.  The filmmakers should have been forced to make a decision.  Either go the Blair Witch route entirely or scrap that technique altogether and just give the audience a solid dramatization.  It’s possible to have too much of a good thing.  And what works in one scenario, one project, in the hands of certain artists, might not work elsewhere.

I don’t usually use a star system to rank movies, but for this I’d give it a 2.5 out of 5.  Now, if Milla Jovovich had gone all Jack Bauer on the aliens, that might’ve been worth the full five stars.

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