Universal Pictures | USA | 98 min.
Note: This review does contain spoilers.
Director Olatunde Osunsanmi so desperately attempts to convince the audience that the unfolding events in The Fourth Kind are genuine that it results in a predictable, boring exercise close to that of a cheap cable TV documentary. The film begins with actress Milla Jovovich coming onscreen as herself, proclaiming what follows is a combination of found footage and audio mixed with reenactments. The film fails when the mix of the two, by the gimmicky split screen, doesn’t exactly match up and the “real” footage feels too forced and the “fake” footage comes off overacted and stale.
There have been an abnormally high number of disappearing people in Nome, Alaska since the 1960’s. Psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler (Jovovich) has been recording patient sessions to try and figure out what these occurrences mean. As the film progresses we are led to believe this has something to do with alien abduction.
The main problem with the film is the lack of basic elements that make up a respected entry into the thriller/sci-fi/horro genre. Unlike this year’s Paranormal Activity, there is a gaping lack of tension throughout the film. Each time Osunsanmi jumps back and forth from the found footage to the reenactments we jump right with him, further and further away from any connection to the story or characters. The technique is initially intriguing but Osunsanmi should have stuck with a single convention.
There are even moments in the 24-esque splitscreen sections that don’t quite make sense. In one scene the local Sheriff August, with an over-the-top performance by Will Patton, goes to investigate a house call from one of Tyler’s disturbed patients. The patient has his family at gunpoint and the screen splits into two parts. In the found footage we see the patient shooting at the window directly at the cop car. In the real footage we see Sheriff August nonchalantly calling in the disturbance to the station, seemingly unaffected by the gunshots coming straight at him. This is one of many scenes that just doesn’t work.
The film is also void of satisfaction. I understand that Osunsanmi wants us to think for ourselves and decide whether or not aliens exist and what these abductions mean, but he doesn’t earn the right to do so. The muffled voices on a tape recorder, the freaked out patients, and the ridiculous ancient language idea aren’t enough to spark an interest for investigation as the audience. The interview scenes are predictable as we wait for the patient to freak out. The only time, which lasts for mere seconds, that we actually see any alien it feels overproduced and underwhelming.
If you thought Paranormal Activity‘s ending was disappointing, I strongly advise in staying away from this. It feels as if the last third of the shooting script was ripped out and we are left with no feeling of wonder, conclusion, or fulfillment. Nothing leading up to the end is entertaining or thought-provoking, so when Osunsanmi and Jovovich face the camera to tell us it is our choice whether to believe if what we saw is genuine, there is no emotion left except shame that you had to sit through this entire film. If that wasn’t enough there is what feels like five minutes of text on the screen telling us about where the “characters” are today. This painfully obvious reach for realism is continuously accentuated as we move throughout the tedious story.
The Fourth Kind could have been an excellent commentary on the entertainment industries strive for realism and how that can shape the viewing experience. Instead, we are left with bloated, over-acted, and unfocused look at an initially intriguing premise. In a world with films like [REC], Cloverfield, and the recently popular Paranormal Activity, that each do an remarkable job of pulling the audience into the story it is impossible to recommend The Fourth Kind to anyone.
3 out of 10
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