Those who study UFOs have developed a system of classifying UFO encounters. The first kind: sighting. The second kind: evidence. The third kind: contact. The fourth kind: abduction.
The Fourth Kind takes us one step past Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Spielberg took us as far as contact. In The Fourth Kind, writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi takes us past mere contact with alien life and purports to show us actual abduction by an alien intelligence. It wants you to believe it is real. Actually, the success partially hinges on the belief that this is absolute truth. So, be sure not to do any looking before seeing the film.
A quick search of the Web will reveal that The Fourth Kind is a hoax. No matter what the advertising will have you believe, no matter what the film shows you, it is not real. The stories are familiar and I am sure you have heard them all before. The bigger question is in which camp do you find yourself. Are you a believer? A non-believer? Perhaps a skeptic? Where you land on that spectrum will play a big part in how much entertainment you derive from this film.
Me? I fall nearest to skeptic. I do not doubt that there is other intelligent life in the universe. What I do doubt is that we have actually been visited. I mean, I think if we were to be visited by intelligent alien life they would either reveal themselves differently, or at the very least to different people. But that is neither here nor there, as it does not affect the effectiveness of this film in my eyes. I suspect that if you are a believer, you will be drawn right in, while the non-believer will find the proceedings laughable. However, if you are a movie fan, the entire exercise should prove to be interesting.
The film is presented in pseudo-documentary fashion, going so far as to say that everything is real and can be backed up by archive footage. What follows is a film that chronicles events that occurred in Nome, Alaska earlier this decade. We often get to see both the re-enacted footage featuring Milla Jovovich as Dr. Abigail Tyler and the "real" footage side by side to further enforce the reality of the portrayed events.
What exactly is going on in Nome? Well, a disturbing number of people are waking up in the dead of night to find an owl staring at them through their window. This fact intrigues Dr. Tyler and she investigates further, possibly uncovering alien abductions. The more she digs, the deeper she goes, the stranger things become. Her patients experience mental breaks and bizarre physical effects of her work. Seizures, speaking in tongues, murder, and levitation all occur under her watch. This things draw the attention of the town sheriff (played by Will Patton) and a concerned colleague (played by Elias Koteas). Not only that, we also bring in a fellow doctor who is familiar with the Sumerian language (played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim). Granted, all of their names have been changed to protect those involved.
All of Tyler's efforts to uncover the truth gain the attention of the alien beings that have been tormenting her patients and things begin happening to her — things that she has experienced but cannot be explained. Things that are not to be believed by anyone.
So, the premise is that Tyler is being interviewed by the director for this feature, Olatunde Osunsanmi. She is opening up about the experience and sharing her archival footage. The interviews and footage are combined with recreations to paint a vivid picture of alien visitation and abduction. Why is Tyler so invested in this beyond a professional interest? It is her personal continued involvement in the event.
Overall, it is pretty interesting. The film is constructed in compelling fashion, although the presentation also gives away the fact that it is indeed not real. Think about it a little. If it was real, would it be released as a horror film? It may be billed as being real, but it is never presented as a documentary. If it is real, why not any more present day interviews with anyone involved? Yes, this is explained, but I am sure there is someone they could have gotten. If it were real, why show archival and recreation footage simultaneously? That seems to be counter-productive.
Now, take away the reality of the situation and watch it as a fictional film. On this level it works well enough. We are drawn in using a variety of tricks, including the personal introduction by Milla Jovovich. While the recreated and archival footage playing at the same time is counterproductive to believing it is actually real, it is presented in an engrossing fashion with split and quad-screen presentation with moving bars, changing the size of the various sections and pulling your eye around the screen. It is a rather interesting way to show the footage and it works.
Bottom line. In the end, the movie itself is decent. The hoax factor does hurt it in the long run, but it is an interesting film that tries something new with the first person/found footage genre that has found a certain level of popularity over the past few years. I cannot say it has much replay value, but there is no denying that with the right state of mind, this could seem to be compelling.