The Fourth Kind starts with star Milla Jovovich walking toward the screen, introducing herself, and explaining what will be one of the most unusual and misguided film structures of the year. The film, written and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi (and somewhat co-starring the filmmaker too, but we'll get to that), purports to tell the true story of some mysterious occurrences that happened in the fall of 2000 in Nome, Alaska. To do so, Osunsanmi liberally uses split-screen, showing "real footage" from psychology sessions and even police video on one side and the recreation of it on another. He also regularly cuts to an interview he did with the lead of the film, Dr. Abigail Emily Tyler (played by Jovovich in the recreations). Even the split-screen doesn't sit still with the line down the middle always moving and the filmmaker sometimes deciding two versions aren't enough, showing a brutal shooting in four corners of his celluloid. All of it is nothing more than an elaborate light show, smoke and mirrors designed to lull the audience into believing that not only what they are seeing is real but that the filmmaking isn't some of the most amateurish of the year.
The film opens with Dr. Tyler recounting the recent stabbing death of her husband Will. Her husband was not a stable man and, a few years later, she notices that some of her patients are experiencing similar night terrors. They all claim to have seen a white owl in the middle of the night and have awoken feeling terrifying fear that someone or something was about to come through their door. Under hypnosis, Dr. Tyler's patients experience shocking, devastating reactions and usually go a step further the next day. After one of her patient's murders his whole family, something that the film purportedly shows via an actual police car video camera (disgusting exploitation if it's real, nauseating even if it's not), Dr. Tyler digs a little deeper and discovers that she herself may be experiencing these night terrors that could explain the disappearance of dozens of Alaskans. Elias Koteas co-stars as a doctor friend of Tyler and Will Patton as the Sheriff who thinks she's crazy.
Here's the biggest "funny thing" about Dr. Tyler's story – no one is willing to corroborate it. When you notice that EVERY other character in the film is using an alias, shouldn't that raise an eyebrow? Essentially, what we have here is one woman being interviewed by a filmmaker who wants to turn her story into a film. Even if you think it's real, it's only as real as what the clearly scripted and rehearsed Tyler and Osunsanmi tell us in their interview, the backbone of the entire film. Believers will point to a few scenes of crazy video and audio featuring a supposedly dead language being spoken by alien visitors and of people levitating or becoming deformed through visitation. To them I point to the hours of footage of alien encounters that have been proven to be hoaxes over the years and the film’s complete lack of any effort to prove them real in this case. If there had been one voice besides the lead character of her own story and the filmmaker so desperately trying to prove that this is all true, The Fourth Kind might have gained some credibility, but it plays about as believably as Alien Autopsy.
But let's leave that aside. If you believe it's real, more power to you. Let's talk about filmmaking. Why does Osunsanmi shoot everything in The Fourth Kind like an ADD-riddled teenager filming something on his Flip? I've rarely seen a shakier film that uses cheaper tricks to try and scare its audience than The Fourth Kind. There's a different between scary and nauseating. The Fourth Kind is purely just the latter. Yes, I jumped during a few of the purported recordings, but you'd have to be alien not to. It's the connective tissue – the shaky handheld approach, the overdone score, the loud effects – that truly drain the piece of any power that it might have had, true or not.
Ultimately, The Fourth Kind is a bad TV special masquerading as a movie. With silly recreations, scripted interviews, and doctored footage, it speaks to an audience who wants desperately to believe that we are not alone in this universe. We should hope that we are alone because if a higher intelligence ever sees The Fourth Kind they may choose to destroy us for our own good.
Rating: ONE BONE
Reviewed by Brian Tallerico (MovieRetriever.com Film Critic)