November 05, 2009

The Fourth Kind

Vex, Lies and Videotape

Grade: C –

Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, Will Patton, and Hakeem Kae-Kazim

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Somebody gets taken for a ride in The Fourth Kind, and it's not the denizens of Nome, Alaska (represented here as a mountainous enclave instead of a flat-lying port city along the Bering Sea), who suffered a high rate of disappearances over the past several decades that this movie tries to blame on alien abductions.

Perhaps it is the purported psychologist and hypnotist "Dr. Abigail Tyler," whose conveniently staticky footage of paranormal activity she witnessed while living and working in Nome during 2000 is interspersed with dramatic reenactments of those same and other unrecorded events (during which she is portrayed by Milla Jovovich). Or, maybe it is director Olatunde Osunsanmi (The Cavern), who seems to buy into the story during replays of his 2002 interview with an ashen, borderline catatonic Tyler (not represented by – or even vaguely resembling – Jovovich) after “losing” her husband and daughter.

Or, most likely, it's the audience snookered by a tall tale foisted onto them via easily faked material and a noticeable dearth of documented, corroborating evidence. During therapy sessions, Tyler and fellow psychologist Dr. Abel Campos (Elias Koteas) hypnotizes towns-folk suffering from insomnia, all of whom instantly recall a white owl and some terrible vision that violently catapults them off Tyler’s couch. One of these patients (Corey Johnson) goes so insane after his session with Tyler that he kidnaps and kills his family (a lurid scene also purportedly caught on videotape).

All the “actual” footage Osunsanmi appropriates just happened to be recorded during consecutive days back in October of 2000. And, although a linguist expert (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) determines that the aliens communicate using an ancient Sumerian dialect, a recorded exchange between them and Tyler apparently reveals that they also understand the King’s English but just choose not to speak it, I suppose.

For the record, the real-life FBI blames Nome’s disappearances – most of them Native villagers visiting the city – on alcoholism, the cold, and possible hate-killings. Still, there could be spooky fun in playing the film’s shell game of truthiness was not verisimilitude so essential to its eerie air. Instead, not a minute of the lurching, lifeless Fourth Kind rings genuine —just call it Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind.

Neil Morris

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