THE FOURTH KIND
*1/2 (out of 5)
November 6, 2009
Milla Jovovich as ABIGAIL TYLER
Will Patton as SHERIFF AUGUST
Corey Johnson as TOMMY FISHER
Directed by: Olatunde Osunsanmi
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
An interesting thing happened after I saw “The Fourth Kind” at an early press screening. I looked up the film on Wikipedia and found a story by the Anchorage Daily News which, based solely on the film’s trailer, debunks the entire “based on a true story” angle.
We all know the trailer I’m talking about… the one where Milla Jovavich walks up to the camera and says, “I am actress Milla Jovovich… This film is a dramatization of events that occurred in October 2000. Every scene in this movie is supported by archive footage.” The movie starts exactly the same way.
What unfolds is a relatively creepy tale of sleep deprivation, missing persons and murder in the small town of Nome, Alaska. Jovovich plays psychologist Abigail Tyler, who treated several people for sleep disorders, and later she makes the connection to abduction experiences in these patients.
About 30 minutes into the movie, it’s pretty doggoned obvious that the film is complete bunk. The so-called “archive footage” is directed with a purpose, often showing things that would have never been allowed to be included in a feature film, especially a purported docudrama. By the ending of the movie, it’s even more obvious that all this footage is faked with digital effects and godawful sound manipulation.
Thanks to Wikipedia and the Anchorage Daily News, it’s sinfully easy to confirm that the character of Abigail Tyler never existed. “No one has heard of the psychologist, including the state licensing board and president of the state psychologists association,” says Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins. Furthermore, he states, “state licensing examiner Jan Mays says she can’t find records of an Abigail Tyler ever being licensed in any profession in Alaska.” Did you get that, folks? Any profession.
After linking to this article, I was berated by a few online friends that pointing out the vacuous nature of the story was, in fact, a spoiler. I disagreed, saying that it reveals no plot details, nor any twists, turns or surprise endings. To me, a spoiler is actually spoiling the plot, not spoiling the thin house of cards bad marketing helped build.
Does knowing “The Fourth Kind” isn’t really a true story really spoil the film? I suppose it does in a way, but mainly because the only thing that makes this movie appealing is the though that it could be real. It wouldn’t be so bad if the filmmakers had just left the cinematic practical joke at the beginning like the all-too-often-seen “Based on a true story” moniker. Instead, they hammered it home every chance they got, showing “re-enactments” alongside “archived footage” and plastering words like “actual audio” across the screen.
Does the movie create a foreboding atmosphere? Sure. Does it have some creepy moments? Yup. But that all disappears with any knowledge of the films ersatz nature. The other elements of the film – characters, empathy, a driven plot – are all secondary to the forced feel of the patient’s psychology sessions.
This is what makes “The Fourth Kind” such a disappointment. The entire film hinges on the fact that you believe from frame one to the end credit that this is all real. As an alien abduction movie, it’s terrible. Everything happens off-camera, out of focus or in conveniently distorted VHS video footage. There’s no payoff to the set-up, which is understandable in a docudrama but unforgivable in a work of pure fiction.
I have had a problem with Hollywood’s overuse of “Based on a true story,” but this is the worst violation. Movies like “Fargo” and “The Blair Witch Project” were still effective films even if you knew they didn’t really happen. Not so for “The Fourth Kind.” If you buy the story and later discover it wasn’t real, you will feel cheated and robbed of a fine cinematic experience. If you see the movie for the shenanigan that it is, you’ll just become bored and disappointed.
In the end, as effective as some of the scares and atmosphere might be, “The Fourth Kind” is nothing more than a science fiction version of a Michael Moore movie. It makes wild claims that it’s the utter truth, and if you go in with blinders you might like it. But a discerning mind and a minor grasp on the ability to research (i.e., typing one or two search terms into Google) will reveal the movie to be as blast of hot air.
(NOTE: If you want to read more about the debunking of “The Fourth Kind,” visit http://community.adn.com/adn/node/143292)