In October 2009, a small film few had previously heard of named Paranormal Activity opened wide, riding the buzz of an ingenious months-long marketing campaign. It quickly became the most profitable movie of all time. A couple weeks later, The Fourth Kind, an eerily similar movie – also based upon "home footage" – had the misfortune of debuting, just too little, too late. The Milla Jovovich-starring movie arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, and while it isn't a great movie, it does order up some chilling moments – as long as you're willing to suspend disbelief.
The Fourth Kind is set in Nome, Alaska and is allegedly based on true footage, which is used continuously throughout the movie. Jovovich plays Dr. Abbey Taylor, a psychologist who discovers that several of her patients are experiencing the same hallucinations. She soon begins to suspect that they are being abducted, and that she is among them.
The movie is incredibly simple, with a basic, almost rudimentary plot. The wild card is the "real footage," which shows people reacting and freaking out to a variety of circumstances. A man levitates off his bed (the recording gets scrambled at that point), a strange voice is recorded speaking a long-dead language and other weird things happen, supposedly captured on video for the world to see. Spliced against reenactments by recognizable actors, the footage does a pretty good job as coming across as real.
The Fourth Kind did not receive the favorable reviews Paranormal Activity did, for a variety of reasons. The reenactment part of the movie is relatively bland; Jovovich and the rest of the cast essentially airmail their performances. There's nothing remotely unique or exciting about the characters depicted in these segments, giving it a weak B-grade feel.
But combined with this other footage, that's actually a good thing. The reenactment part is supposed to be just that: a reenactment. It doesn't matter much if it's cheesy or over-the-top, because that's what reenactments are supposed to be. The "real" footage is what matters, and writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi knows this. Between the stretched expressions of terror on the faces of these "real" people and their screams, The Fourth Kind delivers some truly chilling moments, as long as sounds and screams can get your blood boiling. Some people react to this kind of horror movie and others don't.
Of course, the footage isn't real. There's no evidence of any of this happening in Alaska or of a Dr. Abbey Taylor. It's all just a Hollywood concoction, and people who can't get past that will shrug The Fourth Kind off as just a cheesy sham.
Nevertheless, even knowing in advance that everything in the movie is fake, The Fourth Kind offers up some moments that will cause your hair to stand on end. It's not a classic by any means, nor does it have much repeat value, but The Fourth Kind exceeded my low expectations.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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