It was bound to happen–the faux documentary backlash, that is. The Blair Witch Project was hugely successful, Paranormal Activity less so, and now The Fourth Kind, which has potential but falls way short.
The story, supposedly true, is set in Nome, Alaska, and involves a local psychologist, Dr. Abigail Tyler (played by Milla Jovovich of the Resident Evil franchise), who treats several local patients suffering from sleep disturbances.
In an effort to find out what’s keeping her patients up at night, Dr. Tyler tapes audio sessions with her patients, and video tapes them as well while they are under hypnosis.
She quickly learns that not only are all of her patients describing the exact same experiences, but all of them have been abducted by aliens. (On the alien encounter scale, the first kind is called a "sighting", the second kind is called "evidence", the third kind is "contact" and the fourth kind is "abduction," thus, the film’s title.)
I have no issue with the plot—in fact, I find it intriguing. What I take issue with is the direction. Under the helm of the director, Olatunde Osunsanmi, who also co-wrote the film with Terry Robbins, all credibility is lost.
Osunsanmi starts the film by having Jovovich address the audience and explain that “all events are true and corroborated by archival footage and tapes, and that some of what viewers are about to see is very disturbing” (well, duh, that’s why we’re watching!) and these events are being reenacted by actors. Viewers are never able to forget that they are actors, as every time Jovovich is onscreen, a caption explains that “actor Milla Jovovich is playing Dr. Abigail Tyler” and so on.
Viewers are also told that names have been changed to protect the real victims’ privacy, including the real name of Dr. Tyler. Yet, in all archival footage, viewers clearly see her face and hear her voice (which doesn’t do much for her supposed anonymity).
And speaking of that archival footage—Osunsanmi manages to ruin its faux authenticity by using split screen for much of the film, with the actors and “real” people saying and doing the same things simultaneously on split screen, a la the “mirror game”. Moreover, whenever the archival footage shows anything of significance, it's camera work is blurry, shaky and static-y, because apparently the aliens don’t like being on film. (Osunsanmi also plays a significant role in the film, which makes me wonder just how big his ego is.)
The Fourth Kind also stars Elias Koteas (The Haunting in Connecticut) and Will Patton (Remember the Titans). The film has a 98-minute run time and is rated PG 13 for violent and disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality. It is presented in widescreen format with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Audio is available in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0, French DTS Surround 5.1, and Spanish DTS Surround 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH, Spanish and French. The only extra is approximately 23 minutes of deleted scenes.
The only thing I like about The Fourth Kind is the use of (real?) phone calls that are audible during the credits, in which (real?) people report alien sightings. Sadly, the movie isn’t worth watching through to that point.