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'The Fourth Kind' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

By

'The Fourth Kind' movie poster
© Universal
If ever there was a movie "based on a true story," The Fourth Kind is it. Detailing a supposed series of alien abductions in Alaska at the turn of the 21st century, the film's "facts" may or may not be true, but it never wants you to forget that they're at least supposed to be true -- packing it with archival footage and "actual" sound clips and even opening the movie with a fourth wall-shattering intro from star Milla Jovovich, who explains to the audience that "some of what you're about to see is very disturbing..."

The Plot

In October of 2000, some two months after her husband Will's mysterious death, psychologist Abigail Tyler (Jovovich) vowes to continue her spouse's work studying unusual occurrences experienced by the residents of Nome, Alaska. The patients she interviews have similar stories of sleep interrupted by a "being"; is it an animal, a human or...something else?

After being put under hypnosis, however, the patients begin to suffer tragedies, and Abigail falls under the suspicion of Sheriff August (Will Patton). With the help of fellow psychologist Abel Campos (Elias Koteas) and language specialist Awolowa Odusami (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), she digs deeper and discovers that she too has been visited -- perhaps even abducted -- strengthening her resolve to find out more. But the closer she gets to the truth about the unexplained phenomena, the more she imperils her son and daughter.

The End Result

Milla Jovovich in 'The Fourth Kind'.

Milla Jovovich in 'The Fourth Kind'.

Photo: Simon Vesrano © Universal Pictures

There's a lot about The Fourth Kind that's admirable. It deals with outrageous concepts like alien abduction in a straightforward, realistic manner, without the theatrics of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Forgotten or the gore of an Alien or Predator film. It treats the situation with a clinical eye, reveling in the realism upon which it's supposedly based -- something like "true life" abduction films Communion and Fire in the Sky.

But The Fourth Kind goes beyond those movies in terms of proclaiming its (to use Stephen Colbert's terminology) "truthiness," incorporating supposedly genuine footage of Dr. Tyler's sessions, plus police footage and audio tapes to generate the sort of Blair Witch Project voyeurism that spurred Paranormal Activity to such success. The mix of archival footage and "recreations" is smartly done and is the sort of format the makers of the disastrous Blair Witch sequel should've contemplated.

Unfortunately, only once or twice does the content even approach the spooky impact of Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity. It's obvious that even the "real" footage is recreated, so the attempts to beat us over the head about how genuine everything is comes off as false and pretentious, and the faux journalism angle (with director Olatunde Osunsanmi interviewing the "real" Abigail Tyler) rarely rises above the level of an extended episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

There are elements of a good story in The Fourth Kind, but they never hit their stride as a whole. The plot lines involving Abigail's investigation and her home life don't gel, and attempts to tie in Will's death lack relevance and emotional punch (the mediocre acting doesn't help). In the end, you're left confused and under the impression that there's just not enough interesting material here upon which to base a plot.

The Skinny

Elias Koteas in 'The Fourth Kind'.

Elias Koteas in 'The Fourth Kind'.

Photo: Simon Vesrano © Universal Pictures
  • Acting: C (Jovovich and Patton tend to be overblown.)
  • Direction: B- (Captures the attractive scenery and incorporates various media solidly.)
  • Script: D+ (Annoying characters and fairly uninteresting events that fail to generate emotional involvement.)
  • Gore/Effects: C- (Little is shown on screen.)
  • Overall: C (Admirably restrained and serious-minded but ultimately too thinly plotted, perhaps more focused on emphasizing its reality than on constructing an engrossing product.)

The Fourth Kind is directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality. Release date: November 6, 2009.

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