THE FOURTH KIND
STARRING: Milla Jovovich, Corey Johnson,
Alisha Seaton, Daphne Alexander
2009, 98 Minutes, Directed by:
Fourth Kind is being sold to the public on the wings of a gimmick . . .
This is not a first for
Hollywood, joining the likes of White Noise and
The Haunting in Connecticut, which used marketing angles based upon the
suggestion of truth to sell an exhaustively fictional multiplex event. However,
Fourth Kind is far more aggressive, flat-out daring the audience to
believe this alien abduction tale. It’s the kind of chutzpah that all but
promises a scintillating, skin-crawling motion picture, but The Fourth Kind
is actually quite stunningly ineffective for all the hot air it generates.
Please bear with me here, as
the concept is a little convoluted. Fourth Kind posits the idea that
director Olatunde Osunsami is assembling footage to investigate the strange case
of Psychiatrist Abigail Tyler, who, while living in Nome, Alaska, was witness to
alien visitations through her patients. Using video footage that documented the
alien possessions and assorted otherworldly happenings, Osunsami fills in the
gaps of the proof through a dramatic recreation shot with actress Milla Jovovich
as Abigail. Blending the real and the Hollywood, The Fourth Kind seeks to
develop a thorough portrait of mysterious Nome incidents, presenting evidence of
a horrific alien event that places the burden of belief on you, the viewer.
As passionate a hoax as it may
be, Fourth Kind is still a hoax. Even if the whole story turned out to be
horrifying fact, I still wouldn’t believe it. Thanks to Osunsami’s limited
assets as a filmmaker, Fourth Kind is a dreary, uneventful ride that
fails to conjure a convincing argument for authenticity.
" . . . comes across as an amateurish prank created by someone
itching to be clever!"
The mix of video and film is
clever enough to lend Fourth Kind an arresting identity. The film is
eager to play mind games with the audience, selling Abigail’s torment through
interview footage of the shattered woman as she recounts her ordeal to Osunsami.
Trouble is, reality just can’t be manufactured, and it’s difficult to believe
anything the film is pushing due to the irritating artificiality of the
performances. Had the film stayed in glossy recreation mode, it might’ve
encouraged a deeper sense of fear and mystery.
Furiously juggling videotape
documentation with film overwhelms Osunsami’s skill level, as the director
attempts to tighten the vise through painfully clichéd filmmaking moves, the
most torturous one being a ridiculous usage of jittery handheld camerawork to
suggest intensity. There’s also a bizarre attempt to keep the film’s employment
of split screen lively by moving the divider back and forth, manufacturing
energy where the film has none.
As for this collection of hard
evidence, it’s also a bit of a cheat. The video sequences are appropriately
hollow and atmospheric, yet the electromagnetic energy of the alien presence
just happens to fuzz out the money shots. Osunsami relies on transcription of
Sumerian language outbursts and volume shocks to help cook the tension, and it
results in a few stunning moments of visitation, but nothing that’s able to
sustain an entire feature film or win over mounting doubt. The rest of the
picture is ineffective suspense brought on by vicious overacting (Will Patton as
the skeptical sheriff is particularly grating) and a tepid story that doesn’t
develop beyond VHS parlor tricks.
For The Fourth Kind to
work as intended, it simply must convince the audience that the camcorder
footage is authentic. I never felt comfortable believing Abigail, and most of
the picture comes across as an amateurish prank created by someone itching to be
clever, without the aptitude to accurately sell a complex hoax to the viewing
audience. Attempting shock value and extraterrestrial disturbance to generate a
cult smash, The Fourth Kind will likely tire audiences before it ever has
a chance to swindle them.
- Brian Orndorf