frightening scary stories from your childhood are likely
the ones that the teller claimed were real. Stories that
started, "You know that abandoned house over on Forest
Street? Well, you know why no one lives there?" The
risk is when one tries to overplay the sincerity.
one thing to suggest a story is real and let it stand on
it's own merit. It's quite another to assert, assure, and
insist a story is real and then attempt to back up your
claims by producing a poor-quality Polaroid of the ghost/killer/alien
that you saw with your very own eyes.At
that point, you may well have put more on the line than
those ghost stories, The Fourth Kind is an alien
abduction movie that makes the assertion of it's authenticity
paramount from the very first sequence, and as a result
it's a movie that lives or dies based on your opinion of
The conceit of The Fourth Kind is a new twist.
It claims to be a melding of dramatic reenactment and actual
recorded footage concerning events in Nome, Alaska in October,
2000. Milla Jovovich plays Abigail Tyler, a psychotherapist
in Nome whose husband has recently died under mysterious
circumstances while conducting a sleep study. It seems some
people in Nome are having a hard time sleeping, and are
all being woken up at the same time by a strange owl staring
at them through their window.
digs deeper and uses hypnosis to try to help her patients
access their memories of what's disturbing their sleep,
her methods have some unsettling results, and her search
turns up some creepy evidence that alien abductions (or
the "Fourth Kind" of alien contact) are going
on in Alaska's northern-most city.
The Fourth Kind opens with straight-faced assertions
from both its lead actor, Jovovich, and the writer and director,
Olatunde Osunsanmi, that everything in the movie is based
on documented events and that the video footage in the movie
is real. The movie has some solid scares as it is, but if
their claims of the authenticity of the footage is to be
believed, this would be one of the most terrifying events
I've seen in my life.
the extreme and almost conclusive nature and content of
the "real" footage, this invariably leads to the
question: If this is real, why have I never seen it or heard
of it before? And why has it been relegated to a sci-fi
/ horror hybrid movie eight years after the fact?
The documentary footage is definitely suspect. The "real"
Abigail Tyler, when shown in interview footage with Osunsanmi,
looks like an alien herself, with a sallow, almond-shaped
face and huge, constantly moist eyes. (She also looks nothing
like Milla Jovovich.) The primary source material of video
and audio tapes, which makes up the backbone of the most
frightening portion of the movie, is invariably and conveniently
scrambled or distorted at the very moment the visual would
be most conclusive. Not to mention the fact that nobody
in Nome has ever heard anything about the events or people
depicted or documented in the movie.
The movie's assertions of validity force you ask yourself
the question: How do you feel about the idea of being manipulated?
Not by aliens, as the movie would like you to consider,
but by a potentially unscrupulous filmmaker. Osunsanmi clearly
feels that the claim that the documentary footage is real
is essential to getting the gimmick of the movie to work,
but by making the claim with such bravado, there is the
unintended consequence of making it the primary focus of
the movie and forcing people to start to make up their minds
forces conversation or consideration about the movie away
from anything except whether or not it is to be believed.
As people don't like the idea of being duped by something
that's so suspect, they will likely either roll their eyes
at the assertions of validity or spend the length of the
movie being creeped out and frightened, and then roll their
eyes at the assertions of validity.
The distraction is unfortunate, because there are definitely
some things about the movie that work. If you can get past
your cynicism and accept the conceit, there are some wonderfully
scary elements at work here, including a voice-activated
micro-tape playback that made my skin crawl. The documentary
footage has some of the most startling and potentially disturbing
imagery and sound in recent memory. (Though I will admit,
I have not seen Paranormal Activity.) Some of the
gooses are aided by a booming sound mix on steroids, which
is a cheap trick, sure, but effective none the less.
it's almost completely fabricated, and not an occasion to
start wearing aluminum foil on your head and planing for
the impending invasion, the movie works on its own as a
scary alien abduction story with some pretty intense and
frightening "real" footage. As a completely honest
reenactment and presentation of documentary footage, it's
a rough pill to swallow.
the movie's attitude makes you feel like you have no choice
but to choose a side and ends up pushing even those who
enjoyed the movie into skepticism. Now, do you want to see
my picture of the ghost that lives in the abandoned house
on Forest Street? It's kinda fuzzy, but if you look real