The Fourth Kind ****
The second of this week’s horror releases, after the heavily hyped Jennifer’s Body, The Fourth Kind is a scare flick that may very likely find itself (undeservedly) ignored by moviegoers. Nonetheless, it is perhaps the more interesting of the two. Driven more by the promise of an intriguing concept and genuine scares than big stars or post-modern humour, this is a film that is (allegedly) based on true events and case studies (although recent revelations suggest that it is just like The Blair Witch Project – all lies, Dr Abigail Tyler apparently being a completely fabricated character, most of the disappearances that have occurred in Nome being linked with alcohol and/or hazardous conditions, and the case studies being fictitious, consequently meaning that the archive footage is likely fake) and is presented partially in the style of a documentary. It certainly looks like it might have what it takes to be quite a memorable horror film, but does it really have the impact it needs to truly stand out?
In 1972, a scale of measurement was established for alien encounters. When a UFO is sighted, it is called an encounter of the first kind. When evidence is collected, it is known as an encounter of the second kind. When contact is made with extraterrestrials, it is the third kind. The next level, abduction, is the fourth kind. While cynics bemoan a lack of evidence, the unfortunate folk of the isolated town of Nome, Alaska, have proof piling up around them. Following a disproportionate number of disappearances in the town, psychologist Dr Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich) begins recording interviews with her traumatized patients. These sessions uncover a disturbing number of similarities in her patients’ stories – all suggesting alien abduction. With the help of previously unseen archive footage, we’re taken on an unsettling journey to find out if an encounter of the fourth kind is not only possibly but has already happened.
Ignore the fact that The Fourth Kind is supposed to be based on true case studies and supposedly features reach archive footage (with dramatised sequences built around it) as claiming it to be real is little more than a hook or gimmick – deception if you will – to attract moviegoers to see the film. It is a gimmick that proves wholly unnecessary too, as there are more than enough reasons to see the film without the suggestion that what we are shown is real. Director Olatunde Osunsanmi has crafted what is quite possibly one of the scariest films seen in some time and he has done so using extremely simple filmmaking techniques as opposed to more elaborate ones. The film has the look, feel and sound of a real documentary (complete with reconstructions) and regardless of whether it is real or fake the archive footage seems authentic and provides genuine chills. Even if the film is a hoax, realism is still key to its success and Osunsanmi ensures that the film never fails to convince, even when dealing with far out science fiction concepts (although the sci-fi content itself is minimal), with not only the film techniques used but also a very well written script serving to make something that is genuinely believable. The realism is also heightened by fantastic performances from the entire cast, which also includes Will Patton and Elias Koteas. Milla Jovovich, in particular, is excellent, effectively conveying the fragile emotional state of her character and ensuring that we believe her character’s story or at least we believe that she believes it. So, overall, The Fourth Kind is a film with plenty of things to recommend it. If it were real that would just make it even more terrifying but whatever the case it is easily one of the most terrifying and most intriguing horror movies of 2009 and definitely worth seeing.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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