“The Fourth Kind” is the latest film claiming to be “based on true events.” It features “real” archive footage of the events that took place eight years ago in Nome, Alaska as well as tape recordings and interviews with those involved. It seems that a number of townspeople have gone missing while others have been having trouble sleeping thanks to nightly appearances by a ghostly white owl.Milla Jovovich portrays Dr. Abbey Tyler, a local psychiatrist who uncovers a connection between the disappearances, the nightly visitations and her husband’s recent death.
The movie opens with Jovovich addressing the audience directly, setting up its premise and introducing the blurry-eyed take on reality and fiction that the audience is about to experience.
Shortly thereafter we meet the film’s director, Olatunde Osunsanmi, who is seen interviewing the “real” (read: non-Jovovich) Dr. Tyler about the events that we are about to watch unfold. Dr. Tyler is a hollowed-out ghost of a woman with deeply sunken eyes. Essentially, she looks like what she has endured has sucked the life out of her.
She recounts her tale, how her husband was stabbed to death by an intruder while, she watched, her patients sleep disorders and deteriorating mental states and how it all led her to believe that the tragedies befalling Nome were related to alien abduction, or close encounters of the fourth kind. Hence the title.
“The Fourth Kind” is an EXTREMELY uneven film from start to finish. Every time you start to think “oh this is getting good” something ridiculous happens or an actor delivers a line with no intonation whatsoever and everything falls apart.
The biggest thing going for it is the footage of patients undergoing hypnotherapy and being forced by the “real” Dr. Tyler to confront what has been really tormenting them each night. The results are very disturbing and not for the faint of heart.
For some reason, Osunsanmi decided not to allow these sequences to stand on their own. Instead, he filmed dramatizations of the events using his big name cast which play along side the other footage via split screen. At times, there is so much going on in the film that Osunsanmi has to divide the screen into fourths just to keep track of it all.
The dramatizations serve little to no purpose and— more often then not— only manage to detract from the absolute craziness taking place on the other half of the screen.
Essentially, the split screens provide the audience with a unique opportunity: the chance to watch a good movie and a bad movie simultaneously. It’s like cinematic picture in picture with one channel set to “Alien” and the other to “Alien: Resurrection.”
Jovovich won’t do much to silence those critics who still know her as a model first and actress second. The always reliable Elias Koteas shows up as a fellow psychiatrist, but he’s not given much to do outside of being a shoulder to cry on.
Will Patton does his best stereotypical small town sheriff impression. Also, he gets to toss a chair through a glass door and then tell everyone else to calm down. Apparently, you can do that when you’re sheriff.
Sadly, the movie’s best and most believable cast member doesn’t even find her way into the end credits, probably in an effort to further confuse the lines between fact and fiction
“The Fourth Kind” is the first feature from Osunsanmi, who also wrote it. Unfortunately, he falls prey to trying to do way too much. He brings a ton of energy to the project, but seems to almost drown in his stylized approach. A scene comes to mind where the screen has been quartered and the images scroll across it like a cable news ticker. Add to that the flashy editing and fancy filters and you get a movie that is visually striking, but lacking in substance as his script is as spotty as the finished product.
Even though much of his movie fails, Osunsanmi manages to craft a handful of sequences that are devilishly effective, so much so that they almost make you forget all the nonsense you had to sit through to get to them. The film’s conclusion is downright haunting.
You could say that Osunsanmi is Dr. Frankenstein and “The Fourth Kind” is his monster. It’s a weird combination of spare parts and plot devices all working together to create an over-cooked yet unsettling, ham-handed but occasionally effective mockumentary/ sci-fi thriller. Just remember that it’s heavy on the “fi.”
Colin McGlinchey is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu.