The Fourth Kind: Blurring Reality & Insanity

by | November 4, 2009 at 5:04 PM | The Movies

The Fourth Kind is a rather ingeniously creepy new take on the classic scary movie trope of alien abductions. While they couldn’t have predicted the surprise success of the “reality-style” scare flick Paranormal Activity or this summer’s documentary-style District 9, writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi nonetheless has managed to blend that now-familiar aesthetic with traditional filmmaking, selling everything the actors do as a dramatization of “actual events.” The film opens with star Milla Jovovich speaking directly to the audience and explaining this set-up, and starting the film’s refrain of “what you believe is for you to decide.” Fear Net is featuring an analysis of the film from paranormal researcher and believer Marie D. Jones, who identifies and explains all of the common threads in alien abduction accounts that the film touches upon. Check it out right here.

Watch clips from The Fourth Kind.


She’s obviously a believer in the phenomenon, although she stops short of saying anything about believing in the events of the film itself – even if she does seem certain that ancient civilizations were dealing with aliens a la The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The movie shows us a sickly, ashen Dr. Abigail Tyler speaking to Osunsanmi on what appears to be a college TV network about her experiences, which are then recreated by Jovovich, Elias Koteas and Will Patton, among others. Oftentimes, these glossy re-enactments are shown right alongside grainy VHS-style footage of the freaky human responses under hypnosis being re-enacted. It’s disturbingly effective, especially considering there truly are a drastically high number of unexplained disappearances in Nome, Alaska, where the film is set.

The skeptics have plenty to fall back on, although I highly recommend skipping this paragraph if you want to go into the film spoiler-free and be freaked out by it. You can see in the trailer that the film says it is “based on actual case studies,” which gives the filmmakers the same amount of wiggle room as “inspired by true events” would (which is a lot, because if you write a Godzilla movie after dreaming about a giant GEICO gecko destroying Hoboken, it would technically be “inspired by true events”). Jovovich tells the audience that the events are backed up by “archived footage,” which is just as vague. Wikipedia has no information about any real Dr. Abigail Tyler at all and explains away the weirdness in Nome with alcoholism statistics.

Believers, however, never seem to let skeptics stop them. As Jones says in the Fear Net clip, you can’t brush the experiences of 35 million people under the rug and, again, the film’s mantra is “what you believe is for you to decide.” Anyone going to movies to see unvarnished truth is fooling themselves anyway, but Osunsanmi proves that working within the illusion of reality, you can really pull off some killer chills. Don’t go into this one expecting a by-the-numbers alien story or a rote climactic monster reveal. This one’s different. This one is interesting.

I must note, however, that Elias Koteas and Christopher Meloni look, sound and act so much alike that they need to play brothers in something cool. Somebody make that happen.