Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Fourth Kind (2009)

The Fourth Kind (2009)

“There are four kinds of alien encounters. The fourth kind is abduction.”

The Fourth Kind, by director Olantunde Osunsanmi, is an unusual beast – a bizarre blend of documentary, mockumentary, dramatization and out-and-out sci-fi/horror fiction. Spinning off the premise of alien encounters in an isolated Alaskan town, Osunsanmi presents us with twin views as the story unfolds: “actual” footage of Dr. Abigail Tyler and dramatization with Milla Jovovich portraying Dr. Abigail Tyler. At times this choice is extremely effective and, at other times, succeeds in pulling you out of the story.

At times the footage and the dramatization are presented side by side or even in grid format. It is a very interesting and original approach; however, for me, it served to remind me that it’s a story, a movie and I would suddenly find myself in the theater again, no longer immersed in the story. Thankfully, the director manages to pull you back in quickly, but the result is at times jarring. I also think this was on purpose, a cinematic trick to make you feel as if it were “real” and had indeed happened and to some degree it works. When the scene’s switch to focus on Dr. Tyler’s recorded footage and is combined with an excellent, amplified score, the result is pure horror. To my surprise, I felt my heart race and my hands and feet tense up. It can be quite chilling and effective, if you let yourself get caught up in it and I did.

The plot is fairly simple, recounting Dr. Abigail Tyler’s encounter with the Fourth Kind, first through her patients (she’s a psychologist) and then her own involvement as well. To say much more would be unfair.

The movie succeeds much more on the psychological and horror levels than any sci-fi level, there are no space ships (ala CE3K) and no aliens – at least in the traditional sense. The focus is on the human element and the affects of the encounters both to the mind and body. When the encounters happen, it can be truly terrifying and horrific. Let’s just say this isn’t a Spielberg happy ET experience. At these moments, the dramatization layer falls away and lets the “real” footage take over where the film is obscured and distorted. This is insanely effective as it allow you to fill in the blanks and imagine much more than is actually there – not many films can do that and not as well as you find here.

The performances are all top notch with Milla Jovovich really hitting it home. You feel her character’s loss, her desperation, her fear and her drive. This is her best performance. Elias Koteas and Hakeem Kae-Kazim support her character, grounding her findings and lend the believability the story needs. Will Patton, as the sheriff, serves as the skeptic exceptionally. The most haunting performance may be the Dr. Abigail Tyler character herself found mostly in an “interview” with the movie’s director framing the film and the key plot points throughout; she is a haunting visage, and she emotes a broken and haunted woman.

I’m not sure this film will appeal to everyone, to many at all, In fact. It takes a large leap of suspension of disbelief to succeed. If you get caught up in how hokey the story and premise can be (and the devices found within expose that from time to time), you won’t find yourself truly enjoying this film. However, if you can let yourself get into the story, you may find yourself genuinely frightened and affected.

7.5 out of 10

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