A Fire in the Sky for the post-Blair Witch generation, The Fourth Kind purports to present dramatized accounts of actual unexplained events. If only moviegoers were as gullible as they were back when that group of college filmmakers vanished in the Maryland woods without a trace, perhaps screenwriter/director Olatunde Osunsanmi’s sham shocker would have actually had us going there for a minute.
Shortly after losing her husband in what appeared to be a violent home invasion, Dr. Abigail Tyler returns to work in Nome, AK. and begins to notice an alarming trend among her patients: not only are their sleeping patterns being inexplicably disrupted, but each time they wake up in the middle of the night, they notice a white owl peering into their windows. When one of Dr. Tyler's patients goes insane and commits the worst crime in the small town’s history, the tragedy sets into motion a terrifying series of events that would convince any skeptic that we aren’t alone in the universe.
Since roughly two minutes of the film’s 98 are genuinely unnerving, it would be somewhat dishonest to call The Fourth Kind a complete failure -- so we’ll play fair and call it a 98-percent failure. These days, claiming that a horror film is “based on actual events” is about as original as making a slasher film where a bunch of teenagers have sex and get stabbed. There may have been a time when that old chestnut was enough to send a chill up the spine of the average moviegoer, but nowadays our BS detectors are sharper than ever. To make matters worse, Osunsanmi wants to have it both ways: he attempts to seduce us into believing with “real” footage of interviews with the patients who have experienced extraterrestrial encounters while simultaneously giving us a split-screen of Hollywood actors recreating the footage that we're already watching. The resulting stylistic contrast is too distracting to be genuinely effective, as we're never sure which side of the screen we should be focusing on or why they bothered with the recreations in the first place. When Osunsanmi starts relentlessly racking focus and indulging his every stylistic whim, he wanders into Brian De Palma territory and essentially diffuses any and all tension through sheer visual overload. Add to that the fact that most of the scare scenes consist of little more than wavy static and jarring noises, and what you’re left with is a film that falls back on an overused cliché to lure us in, then abuses the “more is less” approach once we’ve taken the bait.
And then there’s the overacting. For anyone who grows tired of The Fourth Kind's trite attempts to shock, at least the overwrought performances by Milla Jovovich and Will Patton lend the proceedings some comic relief - however unintentional. From a prologue that finds a poker-faced Jovovich emerging from the forest with an ominous warning that the events we are about to see are deeply disturbing, to a later scene in which Patton destroys a children’s bedroom in a petrified hissy fit, there’s plenty to laugh about in those precious few moments when we don’t feel like we’re being swindled by an overzealous filmmaker with a swollen ego (Osunsanmi can’t resist the urge to appear onscreen, portraying an interviewer speaking with the “actual” Dr. Tyler). Viewers who paid to scream rather than to laugh, though, would be better off simply gazing up at the stars and using their imagination.
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- Released: 2009
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A Fire in the Sky for the post-Blair Witch generation, The Fourth Kind purports to present dramatized accounts of actual unexplained events. If only moviegoers were as gullible as they were back when that group of college filmmakers vanished in the Marylan… (more)