The first kind is when you simply see a UFO.
The second kind is when you see evidence of that UFO. Crop circles and such.
The third kind is when you make contact.
The fourth kind is when they abduct you.
So Steven Spielberg stopped one step short of making a pants-crappingly-terrifying film that would have given me nightmares as a child. Luckily, when the film industry was ready to show us that next step (not counting FIRE IN THE SKY…) in THE FOURTH KIND, I was an adult and less prone to being scared by movies. However, whereas this film would have traumatized me as a youngster, I still find it plenty scary to this day. Bravo, THE FOURTH KIND, bravo.
THE FOURTH KIND is a film innovation, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not fully dramatized, but it also isn’t purely found footage, it’s a hybrid of the two. The film begins with Milla Jovovich breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience, not in the disguise of the Dr. Tyler character she plays in the film, but as herself. She sets the stage by telling us all the need-to-know info. She says this film is based on true events in October of 2000 in the small town of Nome, Alaska. The important part of what she says though is introduce the innovative part of the film. She says we will be watching a mixture of dramatized version of events (all backed by video and audio evidence), and actual footage (video and in one absolutely horrifying scene, an audio tape).
I’m sure I’m doing this out of order, I should put this paragraph I’m writing towards the end, but screw it, I’m doing it now. It is important to note that this film is not based on a true story, it’s all fake. That includes the ‘real’ footage interspersed into the film. This is where the film makes my jaw drop and my head explode. It makes the illusion all that more strong. Let me explain:
When watching a movie based on a true story, each scene that plays makes you think “This is too good to be true. Something of this must have been faked or embellished”. When you watch a found footage movie, questions like “These events are terrible, what police entity would allow this evidence to be viewed in thousands of theaters across the country”, or “Who edited this together so crisply if it’s footage that was found in the forest, completely unedited”? A lot of similar questions come to mind when watching found footage films. Here’s where THE FOURTH KIND shows off its brilliance. When Milla comes right out and tells the audience that some events were dramatized, and some were found footage, suddenly all those previous questions go away. We’re aware that what we’re about to see is largely dramatized, but it has a few found footage scenes (often laid out in frame in several different boxes like the TV show 24) that are ‘supposedly’ real, but you’re more ready to believe those scenes because you know everything else is dramatized. So THE FOURTH KIND does a stupendous job of sucking you in. There’s even cuts back to an interview the director had with the ‘actual’ Dr. Tyler (played by an actress, as we learn in the end credits). The found footage helped strengthen the illusion carried by the dramatized footage. This is awesome, and every time I watch this movie, I fall in love all over again.
Also a great supporting cast with Elias Koteas and Will Patton, help make the dramatized footage just that more interesting and intense. Especially the relationship between Jovovich and Paton’s characters, which at first feels weird because he accuses her of all sorts of crazy things, and by all rights sure seems to hate Jovovich’s character…a lot. But it’s their interplay that packs a lot of emotion into this horror film.
I don’t know about you (dear readers that have either seen the film, or are going to soon after reading this review), but the found footage is more terrifying than the dramatized events. When the aliens are speaking through someone under hypnosis, the camera goes all static and distorted. But you can make out just enough to see the things that will haunt your dreams. This is also brilliant as we all know (or should) that the scary thing you DON’T see, is so much scarier than the scary thing you DO see. So the found footage scenes are just perfection. The dramatized scenes are great too, but the found footage is the real star here.
Just one thing on the negative, I don’t know if they were going for this, or if it was planned, but the Dr. Tyler character comes off as a crazy person. An incompetent psychiatrist. A weak woman. A terrible mother. Did I mention bat-shit crazy? Everyone either renounces her and what she believes is happening, or people just kind of roll their eyes whenever she talks aliens. I’m not very comfortable with this presentation of a female character. This film does feel very misogynistic in tone.
Other than that little note, I really do love this movie, and it still scares me to this day (how much? Well…I decided to watch the movie this morning as opposed to last night, if that gives you some idea) a little…well, okay, maybe a bit more than a little. I definitely recommend this film. Watch it, watch it, watch it. It’s damn good, and one hell of a ride.