One of the oldest tricks of horror movies is to pass them off as true stories. Texas Chainsaw Massacre did it, as did Amytiville Horror, Blair Witch, and last fall’s Paranormal Activity. Also out last autumn was The Fourth Kind, an alien abduction thriller. (The Fourth Kind is UFO code for abductions.) It just came to Korea and I just came out of the theater where I watched it. Let’s begin.
It opens with actress Milla Jovovich talking to the audience, informing us she is portraying Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist who investigated sleep disorders in Nome Alaska. According to her, we are about to watch a dramatization of events in the year 2000, with accompanying archival footage, and some of the names have been changed for privacy. In a nod to 1931′s Frankenstein, we are warned that what we are about to see is disturbing.
The tale starts with Abigail’s own hypnosis, trying to recall the night her husband died. (He also worked with Abby on studying the disorders)Apparently an intruder stabbed him in the chest in the middle of the night, and Abigail can’t remember the intruder’s face. Also her young daughter Ashley is somehow blind after this event (which adds little if anything to the story) and pre-teen son Ronnie is resentful of his mom.
Meanwhile the narrative as a whole is being told by the real Dr. Tyler, who is being interviewed on camera at Chapman University. The whole time archival footage of hypnosis sessions is interspursed with the dramatization. This seemed redundant and (pretend this is true) changing character names doesn’t mean much if you SHOW THEIR ACTUAL SESSIONS SO THE WHOLE WORLD CAN SEE WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE.
But I digress. Abby interviews her clients, and with some nice camera work we see they all tell the same tale, around 3am they wake up and see an owl with big eyes staring at them. (We get some nice ominous owl shots too.) One patient agrees to hypnosis and realizes he doesn’t really see an owl. Coming out of the trance, he won’t say what it is and goes home.
Later that night, he snaps and kills his family and himself. The alleged police footage is shown, which if this really happened, I don’t think it’d ever be shown in a movie.
Will Patton plays the local sheriff who comes down hard on Dr. Tyler wanting to know what’s going on. Abby talks to herself about the case on a tape recorder before going to sleep, leading to the scariest part of the movie.
But first a colleague and friend Dr. Campos watches another hypnosis with similar frightening results. Up till now there’s no alien talk. After the client leaves Abby brings up abductions, which leads to some clunky dialogue about how 11 million people saw UFOs since 19-something and how it really could be just swamp gas. (Hey idiots, were not talking about lights in the sky, we’re talking about abductions)
Anyway the tape. We hear Abby talking about the case from that previous scene, then she falls asleep and the tape continues. Suddenly we hear Abby screaming and shrieking in terror, and a creepy non human voice talking some gibberish. Dr. Tyler ends up contacting a specialist on ancient languages and learns that ancient Sumerian is being spoken on the tape. Next is an oddly shot scene where we get a lecture about how the Noah flood story was borrowed from Sumerian tales, (which is relevant how?????) and ancient sumerian artifacts that were told look like men in oxygen masks, even though they don’t look like that at all.
Anyway she ends up going to her last patients house as he’s distraught and another tape session begins. The patient starts screaming and actually levitates on the bed. Okay we’re watching an alien movie not the Exorcist.
Next her daughter gets abducted one night, and not returned. The Sheriff isn’t hearing any of it. With no where else to turn her friend hypnotises her to try to recall her abduction from a few nights before. The Sumerian scholar video tapes it.
What occurs next could have been the absolute scariest thing I’ve ever seen on film if not for the GAPING PLOT HOLE THE SIZE OF A FLYING SAUCER.
With the accompanying screams of terror preceded by seeing and owl and “Oh my god it’s not an owl” she actually channels the creepy Sumerian voice.
Now remember, she’s recalling an abduction event that was BEFORE her daughter was missing, and during THIS abduction, she asks for her daughter back.
The creepy Sumerian voice responds, (and we get the translation on screen) ”CHILD…… NEVER….. MY….. WILL…. BE….. DONE….. I…. AM………… GOD……” which would have been absolutly totally horrfying if not for that dam plot hole. An evil sadistic creepy god angle takes some real cinematic balls to pull off.
Then there’s screaming from all three people and the camera goes fuzzy before landing in the sideways on the floor angle (end of Blair Witch) as apparently all three have just been abducted.
Abby wakes up in the hospital. The sherrif and Dr. Campos (who either doesn’t remember anything or denies it, ????) are present. The Sheriff makes a revelation that makes no sense. Dr. Tyler’s husband actually shot himself, just as her patient did. How she thought he was stabbed when he in fact was shot is truly an unexplained phenomenon.
We end with the allegedly real Dr. Tyler (I wonder who played her) who we now see is in a wheelchair. She tells us that she doesn’t in fact think these creatures are gods, but “it could pretend to be.” Way to ruin that awful helpless horrifying feeling for us. (She’s religious as we see her pray before meals) Finally our heart strings are tugged as we get cute daughter pictures and the frail emotionally unwound Abigail talking about how she needs to keep hope alive. She has to believe her daughter is still alive.
Before the credits there’s text revealing what happened to all these fictitious characters after the made up events of the movie. The credits roll to various audio clips (with text telling us when and where they were recorded) of people reporting UFOs. That was pretty neat. The last two clips are perfect. First, a young girl talks about how her little brother tells her parents to lock all the doors because the spacemen are coming to take him, and that a star follows him around. Last is an adult talking about abduction, saying, “What if they come back.”
This story tried to hard to convince you it was real. Big words “ACTUAL FOOTAGE” etc fill the screen. Perhaps a different approach was in order. Maybe this should have been a straight dramitization, perhaps with just a tiny bit of archive footage. Either that or make it straight up Blair Witch documentary style like.
For the curious check out http://community.adn.com/adn/node/143292 Dr, Tyler isn’t real.
If I were to rate the first hour of this movie, I’d honestly give it a 9 out of 10. The performances were really good from everyone. I liked the sheriff a lot. Most of the camera work conveyed the suspense and creepiness well, and this movie SOUNDS really scary. Sound is so important to horror. Remember Halloween? It’s also very smart not to actually show big eyed aliens, the closest we get are shadows. There is a good creepy UFO shot in the archival footage though.
Unfortunately the gaping plothole and nonsensical elements at the end, along with the other things I mentioned really aggrivated me. I haven’t been this mad at a movie in 3 years. But it’s not 2007 “this sucks” anger, it’s disapointment. Watching The Fourth Kind is like watching a potential honor student fail an exam. This could have been the absolute scariest thing I’ve ever seen. 6/10.
P.S. For why the Abduction Phenomenon is not real, click here http://jemurr.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/the-shocking-truth-about-alien-abductions/#comments