The Fourth Kind

The Fourth Kind


Reviewed by: Martin Gray

If nothing else, this film has a unique opening: Milla Jovavich walks up to the camera and tells us she's starring as psychologist Abbey Tyler in reenactments of 'disturbing' scenes. I was aghast - why puncture the drama before we even begin?

The film proper kicks off with scenes establishing that something terrible has happened in Nome, Alaska, previously known to filmgoers only for brief mentions in Fifties musicals My Sister Eileen and Damn Yankees, both of which featured Bob Fosse. There has to be a connection. Hmm...

Copy picture

Thankfully, the conspiracy theories in The Fourth Kind are of a higher order, as Abbey bids to use hypnosis to learn why dozens of residents are having disturbed sleep, feeling dread over an owl that's watching them. As Jovavich is interviewed in character about the events we're going to see, a split screen shows the real Abbey talking to her shrink. The effect is somewhere between hypnotic and irritating - we get it, this is based on true events, just immerse us in the film already.

After a while, the 'this is how it really happened' moments become uncommon, allowing us to settle into the story. Abbey believes her husband has been murdered by aliens who arrived in their bedroom one night, compelling her to continue his investigations into Nome nightlife - as well as disturbed rest, people are disappearing and, soon, committing suicide. Police chief August (Will Patton) isn't impressed that the worst occurences are connected to Abbey. Can she find allies to help her find the truth before the law manages to commit her?

Director Olatunde Osunsanmi - who appears as himself interviewing the real Abbey - ratchets up the tension as events spiral far out of control, and the story is ultimately satisfying. The more intense moments see the screen split again and the effect of two versions is powerful. Without being copycat, there's a commendably creepy air, reminiscent of The Mothman Prophecies. Jovavich delivers a career best as Abbey, essaying a strong woman descending into paranoia and hysteria. Patton is fine as the shouty cop, while Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Hotel Rwanda) makes the most of his underwritten role of an expert in ancient languages.

So given this film has a lot going for it, why the weird framing?

I cannot tell a lie, I have a theory for you, but it's not my own. Peter Hall of Sci-Fi Science convincingly posits that Jovavich telling us she's about to play a part, appear in reenactments, softens us up to believe the story - foregrounding the fakery inclines us to assume the footage presented as real is just that. Hall goes on to dissect the truth/'truth' of The Fourth Kind, but it's best read after seeing the film. Here's your handy-dandy link

Whether you ultimately believe the story or not is up to you. Either way, this is an absorbing time passer which raises questions about the millions of claimed alien abductions throughout history.

Reviewed on: 10 Nov 2009
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A widow gets close to the truth about alien abductions. Too close...
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Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Writer: Olatunde Osunsanmi, Terry Robbins

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Hakeem Kae-Kazim

Year: 2009

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: US


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