Monday, May 10, 2010

The Fourth Kind

Right off the bat, lets ascertain what a few people might be wondering about The Fourth Kind: is some of the contents rooted in any truth whatsoever? Is the viral campaign the geneses of some kind of celluloid disclosure? The answer, sadly, is no. The Fourth Kind is almost entirely fictional in every regard. The same formula applied to films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity have also been used … albeit with an inflated budget. And the resultant outcome of all this is something more closely resembling an embellished narrative like Fire In the Sky.

When the first slivers of the viral campaign began to spill into my awareness, I will admit to a certain excitement ... because the subject matter has been close to my heart for over three decades now. In the early promos, we bore witness to things like film-footage of the Disclosure Project for the Press in 2001 (an event that was over-shadowed by subsequent world events later that year), and very high quality video recordings of vehicles in our air-space defying conventional explanation. This, however, is where the fascination came to an abrupt stop. If there existed even a smattering of truth to the project, I would have stumbled across it in my personal research. Alas, The Fourth Kind was going to be more in league with a mock-documentary. 

Said documentary centers around the citizens of Nome, a small town in Alaska experiencing an unusually high number of disappearances and visits from the FBI dating back fifty years. Dr. Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich) is a local psychiatrist delving into the local’s night-time world and soon discovers a great percentage of them are exhibiting the same symptoms and telling identical tales. Dr. Tyler also lost her own husband in mysterious circumstances years previous ... and is not immune to the collective phenomenon of Nome. Filmed events are spliced with so-called ‘real’ footage (annoyingly at the same time), of patients undergoing hypnosis and recalling an 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 interviews with the authentic and skeletal Dr. Abigail degenerate into far-fetched lunacy. And any belief we might have harbored at the beginning is slowly eradicated where everything here feels more akin to something like Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows. Olatunde uses the mythology and folk-lore of real world abductions (None's people are experiencing the screen-memory of an Owl, a common cerebral-surrogate for fourth kind encounters), but doing so in a way that is fixed and vacant. Our intruders malign aspect is layered on like an evangelicals ramblings, then ramped up to create the titular Hollywood ‘jump’ moments.

A few positives can be taken away: the washed-out and blue sepia world production design has chosen is perfect for encapsulating Alaska. Some of the director's techniques and high-camera angles show the initial stages of someone who might find a permanent home in horror. 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 schlock.