This weekend, Dave took me out to celebrate my 23rd birthday. We began at The Cheesecake Factory at the Menlo Park Mall (where I dined on the oh-so-tasty avocado eggrolls and chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake) and later found ourselves wandering over to the adjacent movie theater for an evening flick. I love spooky movies, so we decided to catch “The Fourth Kind“.
The premise of the movie is interesting enough. Actress Milla Jovovich opens the film with a dialogue explaining that disturbing clips from supposedly “real” archival footage would be interspersed between recreated documentary-style shots. The film also shows fragments of an interview with the purported Dr. Abigail Tyler herself, though the cakey white makeup she wears and unconvincingly thought-out responses render her character a bit forced.
The story is set in Nome, Alaska, a dreary northern town with penchants for rain and oddball characters. Among them is psychiatrist Abigail Tyler and her two children. Tyler’s husband, Will, was killed several years earlier under mysterious circumstances. At her practice, several patients begin telling her stories about their late-night encounters with a spooky white owl. Other mysterious occurrences are revealed during hypnosis, leading Tyler to believe that the experiences are related to alien abductions–also known as encounters of the fourth kind.
The story progresses with eerie footage and audio from the so-called “real” cases, and the film does present several scary moments (which I won’t ruin for you here). At the end of the film, you’re presented with two versions of the story: that presented by Dr. Tyler and her patients, and that presented by Nome’s reality-centric authorities. The filmmakers claim neutrality, but the fanciful recreations and acted innuendos speak otherwise.
I liked the eerie setting of the film, which I felt was its strongest point. The sets were cozy enough to emulate Alaskan homes and offices while the rainy forests of pine trees outdoors emitted a stark, chilly vibe. The music was also strong and helped set the tone quite nicely.
The creepy story had its fill of holes and issues, but it was entertaining enough for the duration of the film. The only two characters worth noting–Jovovich’s Tyler and Hakeem Kae-Kazim’s Awolowa Odusami–were mostly believable, stretching between restrained and terrified during the plot. Jovovich’s calm, soothing voice works very well for the role of a psychiatrist, and her acting here is good (though not quite Oscar-worthy). The other characters were flat and stereotypical, none more horrendously than Will Patton’s Sheriff August. August is both unbelievable and laughable, and I would bet that many real-life police officers would be offended by his cold, dismissive attitude toward Tyler and her patients.
My biggest problem with the film was the interview and archival footage used. The “real” Dr. Tyler is so clearly fraudulent–in fact, during her closing monologue in the film, most of the audience broke out in laughter. Showing her just makes the film feel hokey. The footage from camcorders and dashboard cameras is also foolish. It plays out just a bit too perfectly and conveniently to be believed. After all, I think that forced levitation and large dark saucers overhead would be all the more terrifying if not shown on-screen. Like Jovovich’s Tyler and her patients demonstrate during their hypnotic sessions, it’s the villains we can’t see that evoke the most fear in our human psyches.
Alex’s rating: 4.2 / 10.0
The Fourth Kind Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Starring Milla Jovovich, Willa Patton, and Elias Koteas