“The Fourth Kind” is ostensibly about alien abductions, but it’s really a mockumentary-style film that tries so hard to convince you it’s real that it works. “The Fourth Kind” doesn’t need to be authentic, it just needs to sow enough doubt about its veracity to scare you. And in that regard “The Fourth Kind” succeeds in spades.
The movie begins with a televised interview from Chapman University with psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler (Charlotte Milchard/Milla Jovovich), retelling her close encounter in Nome, Alaska in October 2000: Tyler’s husband Will (Julian Vergov) is murdered in his sleep, leaving behind two children, little Ashley (Mia McKenna-Bruce) and recalcitrant Ronnie (Raphael Coleman). Tyler is fond of hypnotherapy (it seems she has no other tools of psychology at her disposal) and soon discovers that under hypnosis every patient sees a white owl staring at them but can remember little else. But they DO eventually remember, and the dredged up memories so horrify Tyler’s patients that one of them (Corey Johnson as Tommy Fisher) goes on a murder-suicide spree.
The white owl is no owl of course, and the aliens invoked by the title have a habit of kidnapping people while they’re being recorded: on camera, in a Dictaphone, or even under hypnosis. “The Fourth Kind” is smart enough not to rely on a SFX budget and instead prefers to let the evidence speak for itself – mostly blurry cameras, inhuman voices, and lots of terrified screaming. Although “The Fourth Kind” is supposedly about alien abduction, it has a surprising amount in common with demonic possession films. That’s a compliment – see “The Astronaut’s Wife” for a similar attempt that goes horribly awry.
“The Fourth Kind” plays a clever shell game with our expectations by casting Milla Jovovich as Charlotte Milchard who is playing Dr. Abigail Tyler. The film makes much ado about the distinction between the actress playing Tyler and the “real” Tyler by showing them on a split screen or overlapping their dialogue. “The Fourth Kind” never lets you forget that this is a dramatization of a supposedly real event, and reminds you so much that after a certain point the sheer audacity challenges your skepticism.
“The Fourth Kind’s” biggest flaw is its strength: the plot is ludicrous. Sheriff August (Will Patton) relentless skepticism strains credulity, particularly in light of the numerous disappearances of the townsfolk. Either Tyler is a serial killer who should be locked up or there’s really some merit to her abduction theories, but August never settles on a decision other to bully her whenever she’s vulnerable. This is one of those films where nobody ever actually speaks in plain English or thinks to spin the tale in a way that might be believable to law enforcement. It’s also one of those films where a Sheriff seems to have the entire judicial system at his disposal such that he can take away one of Tyler’s children after the other is abducted. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, even if it doesn’t really make any sense.
But even though the plot isn’t coherent, Milchard’s stilted acting isn’t very good, and the film never provides any answers, “The Fourth Kind” plants enough seeds of uncertainty that you’ll be looking it up on the Internet. And in that regard it makes for a very effective horror movie.
Want more? Subscribe to my column; follow me on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar. Become an Examiner and get paid to write today!