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The Fourth Kind (2009)

There are four kinds of alien encounters. The fourth kind is abduction.

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 15

Maybe it was bad timing, what with all the buzz over Paranormal Activity. Maybe it’s that movie audiences are so used to reality TV that they think the only good entertainment is if it’s “real.” Or, maybe, Universal is to blame for waffling around on whether parts of this film were real, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of viewers who went in under the assumption that at least part of what they were seeing was true. Whatever the reason that The Fourth Kind hasn’t been well received, it’s a shame, because despite some forgivable flaws, it’s a genuinely scary movie.

Strange things have been happening in Nome, Alaska, with people disappearing and weird owls flitting around—plus there are the suicides. Dr. Abigail Tyler and her late husband Will have been trying to get to the bottom of all the creepiness, which seems to point towards alien activity, by using hypnotherapy, but as their patients’ dreams become more vivid and they delve deeper into their repressed memories, the true horror of what’s really happening becomes too much for one small, isolated town.

Now, the grumbles about the marketing and, to be fair, the way this film is presented stem from the fact that it’s supposedly based around real events involving real people and footage. Milla Jovovich even adds an air of credibility to these claims by breaking the fourth wall in the first scene and telling us that exact thing. I don’t know, maybe I’m just jaded, but none of that really made me think this stuff was real (Universal has finally pretty well admitted as much). Thing is, I didn’t care. Sure, maybe it’s a little freakier to think those “real” hypnosis tapes were, in fact, genuine, but they’re still scary, and do more to unsettle and scare than the entire span of the over-hyped and aforementioned Paranormal Activity. Even if the marketing was disingenuous, the sheer creep factor of the supposedly actual Dr. Tyler, or of the blurred images and static-ridden screams and voices of the hypnosis tapes are disturbing. As a filmmaking device, the juxtaposition of fiction (Jovovich) and her story against the interviews and tapes is handled well and works as an interesting way to tell a tale. There are some glaring questions that aren’t ever really addressed, such as why the Tylers were there in the first place, or how in the world she was able to keep her kids as long as she did, and some may feel cheated that there’s no discernible payoff, no concrete monster to hold on to. For me, though, the biggest disappointment is in the fact that, by trying to add authenticity to the “actual” footage, we don’t get to know who those actors are (especially Abigail), because THAT’S some of the most harrowing horror acting I’ve seen in a while.

It's Got: Scary voices, more creepy stuff than Paranormal Activity, owls

It Needs: Audiences to lighten up, recognition of the "real" actors, more owls


Ignore the claims that parts of this are real and go in expecting a disturbing work of fiction that uses a clever technique to tell its story and you won’t be disappointed.