The Fourth Kind (2009)
I am a huge alien abduction and UFO freak. No qualms, no regrets. I love the paranoia, the pop culture, the allusions to conspiracies and military-industrial complexes. But ever since the end of TV shows like The X-Files and Dark Skies, there's been little left to entertain on the topic. We're a long way out from films like Fire In The Sky and Communion. I am a parched pundit. The glass is sadly empty.
The less we say about the movie unrelated to the TV series, 2013's Dark Skies, the better. What a muddled joke, with a terrible climax and a complete waste of the concept.
In 2009, Olatunde Osunsanmi released his strange science-fiction horror film The Fourth Kind to almost universal panning, so much so that I didn't bother until a few years later. It currently enjoys a single star and 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. No Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, but then, what is?! However, one evening, I decided the time was right, and with expectations markedly low, I dove in to see what Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas and company had achieved.
I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was delighted. While not perfect, this was fresh and engaging and treated the subject matter with the right level of introspection.
Set within the town of Nome, Alaska, psychiatrist Dr. Abigail Tyler (Jovovich) finds herself in the midst of patients reporting eerily similar nocturnal occurrences when undergoing hypnotherapy, with the plot thickening when she herself finds evidence of her own strange encounters.
What makes this particular film so engaging is the way they splice 'found footage' alongside dramatization. In certain scenes, one half of the screen might show Jovovich's character running a patient through a session, and the other, video feed footage of the alleged actual hypnotherapy. It's a great contrast and I found it a very compelling piece of cinematography. Other times, it's simply the 'real footage'.
Moreover, this isn't really a film so much about abductions, but the frailty of the human psyche and how much trust one can place on whether certain events are true or merely hallucinatory hypnagogic states, especially when combined with emotional distress.
The cinematography is stunning, with a fine score by Atli Örvarsson. The film climaxes effectively, inserting esoteric phenomena that would please any Erich von Däniken fan, but never truly diverting from the focus of this being not so much about what lies without, but within. Uneasy moments abound, and the character portrayals - both within the found footage and the deliberate reenactment - are mostly quite good.
It has its flaws, one of them certainly being made outside of the UFO zeitgeist - which, in my opinion, contributed to its lackluster critical reception - and maybe won't surface as a misunderstood cult classic in years to come, but The Fourth Kind is at least interesting. It's delightfully subversive, from the moment Jovovich speaks directly to the camera at the beginning, saying that this entire film is a recreation of events and archive of recorded footage, to having allegedly true and rather chilling MUFON/law enforcement phone conversions with UFO witnesses playing over the end credits.
Not for everyone, and disagreements about, but you don't get films like this very often.