REVIEW: The Fourth Kind [2009]

“Even with hypnosis, it’s black”

I don’t care if The Fourth Kind utilizes real footage or not, it’s a very powerful film. All the marketing materials allude to the fact that filmmaker Olatunde Osunsanmi interviewed psychologist Abigail Tyler and, by using actual footage of her hypnotizing patients and herself, recreated scenes to give the audience the full story of what is happening in Nome, Alaska. The technique is very effective—excising names, showing the actors’ names and who they are playing, (mostly changed to withhold identities anyways), showing the “real” Tyler in split-screen with Milla Jovovich’s representation of her, etc, etc. I will admit to doing as little heavy digging as possible, going into my screening with the absolute belief that it was true. Do yourself a favor and do exactly that if you want to take a gander. It may play like an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” but boy does it pack a punch. You will be doing yourself a disservice by debunking it all first, if in fact it is debunkable, (which I think unfortunately now that it is). Go in blind and be riveted, frightened, and made into a believer.

You have to give Osunsanmi credit on orchestrating all of this. The detail put in is quite astonishing. His subject is a woman that witnessed the death of her husband Will Tyler, one that when in a trance appears to be a murder, stabbed to death while she watched. Hoping to finish his work in what is causing multiple disappearances in Nome, Abigail goes back to her job and discovers many residents of their sleepy little town have been experiencing the same late night traumas. Waking up around 3:00 am, they appear to confront a snow owl. But this is not an owl they see through their window every night, it is looking them in the eye from above their bed; it’s in the room staring at them, making them feel uneasy. Only when they are put under hypnosis to recall the suppressed thoughts do they realize the owl was never there, it was just a manifestation to hide what truly occurred. Whether you believe in extraterrestrials or alien abductions is superfluous, the events shown will resonate and knock the wind out of you. The tears are real, the fear incalculable; these people have seen their worst nightmare and once you see that, what choice do you have but trying your best to never see it again?

But it isn’t just a document of the events; it is also reenactments of footage we are seeing as well as moments not caught on camera to fill in the spaces. Again, it can be looked upon as a bigger budgeted television special made to excite and question. You can’t question the talent involved, though, with a cornucopia of journeyman talent. I think Jovovich acquits herself quite nicely and really delves into the psyche of a broken woman with Abigail, one who’s world is dissolving around her as her mental state gets called into question. However, it is in the casting of Elias Koteas as her colleague and friend; Will Patton as Sheriff August, a man in need of hard evidence and truth; and Hakeem Kae-Kazim as a Sumerian translator who believes the doctor when no one else will, that excels. This trio breathes life into their roles, bolstering this woman as opponents and allies, creating a sense of stakes and realism to her story. The emotive quality of each is high and they all portray the fear we know they’d have in the situation … because we sure would.

Like the tv shows, though, the acting pales in comparison with actual archival footage depicting the real events. Whether or not it is fact or fiction, you cannot discount the effectiveness of these clips. If they are real, my God are they harrowing to view … I’m still thinking about them even now, my eyes tearing in the pent-up anxiety they cause. If they are faked, these uncredited actors are pretty fantastic. The mix of amateurism and true feeling is too real to ignore. If they aren’t real people on film they need to get some more parts in Hollywood because they blow their “professional” counterparts out of the water. Abigail Tyler is a force to reckon with in expression and sorrow and hope that answers will soon come. Her life is an exercise in futility as her actions are inconsequential motions against an immense, yet invisible force. When the creature/demon/whatever inhabits the body of a patient and tells her that prayer isn’t necessary, he is already here and Abigail Tyler should end her study, I felt the confused fear in the pit of my stomach just as she must have been feeling it.

And how about “Scott” and “Tom” in their discoveries of their abductions. Between the murder/suicide and the demonic possession/levitation, the distorted footage is jarring. When Jovovich, as herself, explains at the start that some imagery may be disturbing, she was not kidding. Enter this film at your own risk. I don’t know if going in under the assumption it is fake will cause the illusion to dissolve completely, making the “real” footage appear staged and horribly shot or not; what I do know is that if you go in believing, you will be punched in the gut a few times. Even though the camera goes on the fritz when an otherworldly manifestation appears—whether in Sumerian tongue or UFO spacecraft—what is deciphered through the skipping and fuzz is horrifying. Mouths opened wider than humanly possibly; deep, raspy voices of “God”; audible door creaks and the screams that follow, this stuff stays with you my friends. It may recall films like Blair Witch Project or the new sensation Paranormal Activity, but it’s handled differently and as a result affected me more. By acknowledging that half the film is “fake” and only showing the “real” stuff when necessary or relevant, the truth factor becomes more believable. Call me gullible, call me stubborn, call me whatever you want; I say believe it all and let the story speak for itself. Whether it all comes out as a hoax or not, I cannot deny the physical reaction I had to it and that in itself makes it a success.

The Fourth Kind 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] Milla Jovovich as Abbey and Elias Koteas as Abel
[2] Enzo Cilenti as Scott Stracinsky
(screencaps taken from The Fourth Kind trailer)


2 Thoughts to “REVIEW: The Fourth Kind [2009]”

  1. Lauren

    This movie terrified me. I wasn’t sure at the time if the movie was actually based on true events but either way, I had to pause it frequently to remind myself to breath. I’m a sucker for movies like these. I am easily thrown into these worlds… I am thinking of my similar response to Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity. Because of this, I can’t accurately recommend them to others. It is one of those, “you either like it or you don’t”. There are quite a few out there that find movies like these lame. Although I have to agree with you on the quality of the recovered footage. It was horrifying and extremely shocking. I think, if anything, that alone would separate it from Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch in making the audience believe. Also, love Milla Jovovich!

    1. right?! i’m telling you, i don’t remember dreams, but i can’t imagine not having a nightmare after seeing this. who knows if it holds up to multiple viewings (Blair Witch doesn’t too well despite my liking it a lot and i hated Paranormal Activity until the brilliant final scene). something about the orchestration and multiple viewpoints of The Fourth Kind made it so insanely impressionable on me. so good and i assumed going in i would hate it.

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