Rated PG-13 for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality, 98 minutes
"The Fourth Kind" lacks suspense, raises more questions
"The Fourth Kind" is a supposed fact-based horror thriller that derives its name from the classification of alien encounters, with the fourth kind referring to alien abduction (first-sighting, second-physical evidence of sighting, third-contact). "The Fourth Kind" lacks the genuine verve and thrills (not to mention any real hard evidence) to generate thrills, in spite of a few chilling scenes. With a semi-documentary feel and purportedly based on actual cases, it ends up raising more questions than answers.
"The Fourth Kind" is set in Nome, Alaska, where - mysteriously since the 1960s - a disproportionate number of the population has been reported missing every year. Despite supposed multiple FBI investigations of the region, the truth has never been discovered. Here in this remote region, psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich) began videotaping sessions with traumatized patients and unwittingly discovered some of the most disturbing evidence of alien abduction ever documented, including Dr. Tyler's own daughter Ashley. Their accounts of being visited by alien figures all share disturbingly identical details, the validity of which is investigated throughout the film.
"The Fourth Kind" has a provocative premise and a handful of chilling scenes, explored in a semi-documentary feel, with scenes outlined split screen next to some videotapes of actual, alleged cases that occurred nearly 10 years ago. Of course, the source material to begin with is a little fuzzy (in some cases literally), with nearly all the real identities of the participants hidden under aliases, casting doubt as to what's real and what's not. In addition, recent reports have cast doubt on whether or not Dr. Tyler herself even exists; pale, gaunt and doleful, she resembles and sounds like Shelley Duvall from "The Shining."
Director Olatunde Osunsanmi, in his first big feature film, does a decent job of the re-enactments, and there are a couple of mildly frightful, jolting scenes, but much like another recent, far more successful thriller "Paranormal Activity," we see very little evidence of the aliens themselves, another fact that raises more questions. And most of the abductions generally only occur when the patients, including Dr. Tyler herself, are under some sort of hypnosis, not to mention that the cases investigated by the film all happened to occur around the same time.
Osunsanami desperately wants you to believe all of this is real and while some of it is fascinating, it lacks clarity, suspense and any real answers to the many questions it raises. "The Fourth Kind" also falters as it relies on a weak actress like Jovovich to carry the film; she lacks believability, though she's aided with a couple of strong supporting character actors in Will Patton, playing a confused sheriff, and Elias Koteas, as a confounded but helpful colleague.
Over the credits, we hear audio reports of actual UFO sightings from the last 40 years across the globe, which are compelling but lack insight into the supposed unexplainable phenomenon occuring in Alaska. Osunsanami himself is seen interviewing Dr. Tyler, he and Jovovich appear at the end to state "what you believe is up to you." Truthfully, I'm unsure about the whole UFO thing, but I can state that "The Fourth Kind" the movie isn't as disturbing as it would like to be, and doesn't present its case strongly enough to make you a believer.