‘Fourth’ is a close encounter of the questionable kind

6 Nov

fourth_kind_trailer

Nov. 6th, 2009–

For all those who want to go into The Fourth Kind as fresh as possible, check out my spoiler free review over at Atomic Popcorn. For everyone else, feel free to stick around but know that I’m going to get into some of the more specific details of the film and you might want to clear out. Nothing too spoiler-heavy, but some of whats working or not working in the film is difficult to discuss without revealing elements that the marketing folks have done a reasonable job of hiding.

ATOMIC POPCORN REVIEW OF THE FOURTH KIND

The Fourth Kind would be an interesting exercise even without the recent success of horror phenom Paranormal Activity burning up the Fall box office . As it turns out though, the new thriller, directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi and starring Milla Jovovich(Resident Evil) may now stand to make a profit with new interest turned towards the mockumentary horror genre. What will be missed in the melee to proclaim one superior to the other is the acknowledgement of the extreme and potentially deceptive lengths to which Fourth Kind goes to achieve its reality-based street cred.

I don’t think the film has any responsibility in this case to play completely honest with us, especially since most audience members will be able to parse their way through its misdirection and it isn’t really about actual people, but I imagine it will create a greater degree of suspicion towards ‘true stories’ or ‘real footage’ in the future. Melded together with the dramatized story of Abigail Tyler, a therapist searching for the truth behind her husband’s killer in Nome, Alaska, are alleged taped sessions with various subjects who claim to have encountered mysterious intruders.

 We meet the ‘real’ Tyler, see what looks like a posession case occur right on Tyler’s couch, and even witness a possible U.F.O. The tricky part is there doesn’t seem to be any info out there substantiating any of this story and there’s no references to Tyler or a person like her experiencing anything remotely close to what happens in the film. There have been several disappearances in Nome over the years, but there isn’t so much to suggest that many of these weren’t simply the results of being lost in the elements or drowning. From all exterior sources, the lid is tightly shut on this one.

 Perhaps if the movie said nothing at all, or only dropped the true story moniker. It feels completely different however for Milla Jovovich to come out in front of the film, essentially drawing the meta curtain aside  before it has even been raised, and proclaiming that part of what you are seeing is real footage and that it is ‘very disturbing’. From what I can tell, none of it is real and very little is disturbing.

However, all of that aside, the movie does work at a certain level to establish a creepy environment and a world that might be similar to the one that exists within the minds of the truly paranoid. If there are those out there who legitimately believe they have been abducted or have experienced something terrible at the hands of a supernatural presence, then I suspect they might be able to relate to Jovovich’s portrayal of Abigail Tyler, which is much different from the way the film portrays the real Tyler.

You can read my reactions to the film over at the other site, but I will say that it has moments that are effective and the choice to blend the faux actors and the real actors together within the narrative is a bold one. The problem I ultimately have is that there isn’t much in the story that even feels real or plausible. Without ruining anything regarding the nature of the visitors, their modus operandi seems to keep changing. From time to time they behave like text-book encounters from Whitley Streibers Communion and then later they are  influencing human behavior similar to the  biblical accounts of demons. When one posessed test subject is hypnotized, they exclaim in ancient Sumerian that “I am God!”. It’s an odd moment, and the movie handles it with effortless creepiness. But there’s no exploration of it, or the force that might have said it. Outside of the initial shock factor, the film never delves into it.

Also of note is some important information that the local sherriff and Tyler’s shrink have been hiding from her. If they honestly didn’t think she had this knowledge, would they have waited so long to ‘remind’ her?  Again, the chosen structure–real-life docudrama–is what draws such a critical eye. If it had remained just a drama, or singularly a faux account, then the movie would be a stronger and more successful outing. Right now, it wants to have its cake and eat it too, but now someone has taken the cake, the security cameras are on the fritz, and there’s no sign anywhere that they or the frosted dessert are coming back.

For all who have seen it, what do you think?

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7 Responses to “‘Fourth’ is a close encounter of the questionable kind”

  1. xiphos0311 November 6, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, this movie can go pound sand with thier faux “reality” nonsense. THERE ARE NO ALIENS! oops Spoiler.

    Just make the darn movie and don’t try to fob it off as “real”. I got a feeling since Paranormal Activity made bank faux “real” will be the marketing band wagon everybody will jump on. Drop dead marketing tools be a little creative for once in your life.

  2. lordbronco November 7, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    This is one flick I’m going to skip. And it’s annoying as all get out that the flick is just so-contrived, or that it purports to be a documentary.

    Whitley strieber was a moderately successful cheesy horror writer, before he came up what i like to call “The Communion Mythos”-which he’s spun up into a 12 book series-and it’s all complete and utter bullshit.

    The communion aliens are a particularly annoying fake boogey monster though-blah blah-they don’t obey the rules of physics, walk through walls, and oh yeah they can screw with your memories.

    So they are that ultimate bad writer’s easy-out–Any defense against them can be conveniently re-written as-oh well they have these powers as well. They are ambiguous-they’re from another dimension-etc, etc…

    Though i thoroughly enjoyed Paranormal Activity-this looks like a slap-dash grab to ride it’s coat tails.

    He he-for old school alien high jinks-check out Fire In the Sky, or better yet, out our man Christopher Walken in the original “communion”.

    Finally, even though i know these movies are utter hogwash-they still scare the crap out of me because i live in rural Oregon. creepy movies in the woods flicks always get a plus 5 for freaking me out-but that’s just me.

    Glad milla’s getting new roles other than resident evils and 5th elements though-she’s Slavic goodness.

  3. Bartleby November 7, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    Fire in the Sky–good flick Bronco! I remember it came out around the same time as Army of Darkness to the theaters. We were going to one and couldn’t figure out which to see. FITS was about the same time the X-Files debuted. Maybe this site needs a top ten alien abductions list. I’ll get on it.

    You are right about Streiber’s aliens–they are like the all-purpose enemy. The Swiss Army knife of boogeyman if you will.

    In some ways I enjoyed this one more than Paranormal Activity, mostly because it’s easier to root for Jovovich. She’s really good in the role.

    I love The Fifth Element and Lee-Loo (great gag on The Office recently referencing her) but I agree. This film is the one that I think will finally push her well into the leading dramatic lady spectrum.

    I think had they really focused on making a good fiction film like this instead of adjusting it to trick audiences, they could have had something really cool.

  4. Xiphos November 7, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    “I think had they really focused on making a good fiction film like this instead of adjusting it to trick audiences, they could have had something really cool.”

    Thank you, that’s what I’ve been saying, ahhhhh sweet vindication.

  5. lord bronco November 9, 2009 at 2:47 am #

    I did want to clarify-5th Element is absolutely in my top 25 all-time favorite movies-it just had so much kick ass stuff in it.

    But here’s why-Luc besson wrote the screenplay when he was *12 years old*-and it shows, in a good way. That movie is cool because he had a shot with a big budget, as well as A-List actor Willis, and what did he do-that awesome movie he wrote when he was 12.

    Xi-I did finally post my spoilerific beatdown of Paranormal Activity in talkback-complete with apologies to Conti, Jarv and you-That movie had serious flaws in the theatrical form-but yacking about it more is like beating a dead horse. It’s you know where-peace.

  6. Bartleby November 9, 2009 at 2:55 am #

    Yea, I feel the same way about Fifth Element–Its definitely in my top 25 favorite scifi movies.

    I know it flies in the face of ‘real science fiction’ but I remember seeing it in the theater the year I graduated and from that day to this, it’s still one of the most purely fun times I’ve ever had at the movies.

    I remember dubbing a copy of the vhs when it was released (that was back when vhs weren’t released for general sale except for a certain handful of titles). It was the second DVD I bought when I got my dvd player(the first was Lawrence of Arabia) and it was the third Bluray I bought (after Blade Runner and Road Warrior). So, yea, I guess that in and of itself says something.

    All flaws aside, it’s the kind of movie I could just watch over endlessly or in small pieces. Easily my favorite Luc Besson movie–nothing else he ever did captured that same perfect nuttiness.

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