Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: The Fourth Kind


Right off the bat lets ascertain what a few people might be wondering about the movie The Fourth Kind: is at least some of the contents rooted in any truth whatsoever? Is the viral campaign that started it the geneses of some kind of celluloid disclosure? The answer, sadly, is no. The Fourth Kind is entirely fictional in almost every regard. The same formula applied to films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity have also been applied … albeit with a bigger budget and slicker production that more closely resembles a re-enactment along the same lines as Fire In the Sky.

When the first hints of the viral campaign began to spill into my awareness, I will admit to a certain thrill. The subject matter is a theme that has been close to my heart for over two decades now. In the early promos, we bore witness to things like film-footage of the Disclosure Project for the Press in 2001 (an advent that was over-shadowed by subsequent world advents later that year), and very high quality video recordings of vehicles in our air-space that defy conventional explanations. This, however, is where the fascination came to an abrupt stop. If there were even slivers of truth to the story the film presents, I would have stumbled upon it in my own personal research. I knew then we were dealing with something more along the lines of a mock-documentary. 

Said story centers around the inhabitants of Nome, a small town in Alaska who have been experiencing an unusually high number of disappearances and visits from the FBI dating back fifty years. Dr Abigail Tyler (Milla Jivovich) is a local psychiatrist delving into the unmapped places of the local’s night-time world and soon learns a great percentage of them are exhibiting the same symptoms and telling identical tales. Dr. Tyler lost her own husband to murder in mysterious circumstances some time before and before long she also is not immune to the collective phenomenon experienced by inhabitants of Nome. The filmed advents are spliced with the so-called ‘real’ footage (annoyingly at the same time), of patients undergoing hypnosis and recalling the assault by non-human intelligences.

What director Olatunde Osunsanmi has done here is essentially create two films … both of which are false. After a while the supposed real footage, audio and interview with the ‘authentic’ and skeletal  Dr Abigail by the director degenerate into far-fetched lunacy and any belief we might have had at the start is slowly eradicated into a celluloid extravaganza that more closely resembles Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows than anything else. There is no doubt everyone on board here is trying … Olatunde is using the mythology and folk-lore of real world abductions (all are experiencing the screen-memory of an Owl, a common cerebral-surrogate for fourth kind encounters), but doing so in a way that is glazed and ultimately a rip-off. Our intruders malign aspect is layered on like an evangelicals ramblings and then ramped up into realms we know are for the benefit of creating that titular Hollywood ‘jump’ moment.

There are a few positives that can be taken away: the washed-out and blue sepia world the director has chosen is perfect for encapsulating Alaska. Some of his techniques and high-camera angles show the initial stages of someone who might find a permanent home in the horror genre. On occasion the music and flash-back sequences can be quite disconcerting. Ultimately, however, Olatunde Osunsanmi has taken a fascinating theme ripe for dissection and turned it into Saturday night popcorn slush.