MOVIE: The Fourth Kind (2009)

Fourth KindI didn’t know much about this movie when a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go see it with her last Saturday.  All I knew was that it was set in Nome, Alaska and had something to do with a psychologist doing a study on a group of patients all claiming to have been abducted by aliens.  Snowy Alaskan backdrop, extraterrestrials — sign me right up!

As it turns out, this movie is quite a bit more complicated than that (“convoluted” might be a better term), and quite a bit less entertaining than I’d hoped.

The story opens with actress Mila Jovovich as herself, telling us the film we’re about to see is a true story that will feature video and audio footage of the real Dr. Abbey Tyler and her patients interspersed with a series of dramatizations based on the doctor’s notes, starring Mila as Abbey.

I was sort of intrigued at that point, not because I believed anything Jovovich had just said, but because I thought the gimmick of combining a standard movie with a documentary-style one was kind of cool.  This interest did not last long, I’m afraid.

The story itself is pretty hokey — I know as soon as I say that, someone is going to harangue me for it in the comments (see thread from my Paranormal Activity review for an example), but, I’m sorry, I’m stickin’ to my guns on this one.  I do believe there’s intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.  In fact, I believe this so strongly I cannot understand how anyone could NOT believe it.  (And on that note, by the way, happy birthday, Carl Sagan!)

But I do not — repeat, not! — believe that if intelligent life comes to visit us on our planet, things are going to go down the way they always seem to in these kinds of movies.  For one thing, aliens in these movies always try to wipe out their victims’ memories so that the victims won’t remember anything that’s happened, right?  And, of course, this never works because the physical trauma is always so violent the victims’ brains end up giving them flashbacks that eventually trigger the reinstatement of the entire memory, right?  But here’s the thing — if the aliens are smart enough to fly here, beam us up, torture us, and then erase our memories, why aren’t they smart enough to make it so that our brains never record the trauma to begin with?  It’s not really that hard.  I mean, we can already do this right now on our planet, and we don’t even know how to achieve warp speed yet.  One word:  flunitrazepam.

But that’s just a minor dig, all things considered.  At heart, I simply have a lot of problems with the concept that life that is SMARTER than we are would also be MEANER than we are.  It seems to be a fairly universal concept that you can catch more flies with honey than with anal probes, and I think any intelligent alien civilization would probably also recognize this, even though we dumb humans don’t seem to put it into practice all that often.  Plus, there are plenty of crazy people on this planet who would willingly participate in alien medical studies.  Just put an ad in Craig’s List, fellas.  You’ll be all set.

The silliness of the plot, though, was not, in fact, this movie’s biggest problem.  Instead, its biggest problem was the very thing that intrigued me about it in the first place — the attempt to combine “dramatizations” with “actual footage” and sustain a sense of realism and suspense at the same time.  It just didn’t work for me.  Every shift was a jolt that took me back out of the story, and not only that, but the actors and actresses playing the “real” characters were absolutely awful, overacting to an almost laughable extreme (especially the woman playing the real Abbey Tyler and the guy playing her interviewer).   I never for a moment believed that the “real” footage was real; it had no sense of reality to it whatsoever.

Note to directors:  just because you shoot the crappy actors in grainy black and white video doesn’t mean we’re all suddenly going to believe what we’re seeing is an authentic home movie.  You have to do more than just lo-fi your camera equipment, I’m sorry.  (Though I do thank you for not even making an attempt to show us what the aliens looked like — props.)

Speaking of crappy actors, Will Patton must have had a terrible stomach ache after two hours of chewing all this movie’s scenery.  But Mila Jovovich wasn’t terrible — in fact, she and Elias Koteas (who is aging quite nicely, my friend and I agreed) were the only two decent performers in the entire film.  Unfortunately, they were given such an abysmal story to work with there was really nothing they could do to save the picture from its own inanity and cliché (oh, alien abduction genre — will no one ever try anything new with you?  You deserve so much better).

About halfway through the film, I looked at my watch, groaned upon realizing I still had at least an hour to go, and started thinking about all the laundry I needed to do once I got home.

That’s right — halfway into this movie, I started thinking about LAUNDRY.

I believe I need say no mo’.

[Prequeue me at Netflix | Watch the trailer]

Genre:  Horror, Crap
Cast:  Mila Jovovich, Will Patton, Elias Koteas.

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3 Responses to “MOVIE: The Fourth Kind (2009)”

  1. alisaj29 Says:

    There is an ENTIRE universe out there, that we humans haven’t begun to explore, let alone have the tech to be able to explore; you would have to be completely single-minded, and only see in black and white to think that we are the only inteligent beings in this universe. I like to believe that “aliens” are like Asgard, a benevolent race of beings.

  2. Liz Says:

    The thing is – movies about aliens who AREN’T mean, and who DON’T abduct you and/or perform experiments on you AREN’T SCARY! And if that’s what the producers want, then the aliens HAVE to be mean.

    “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind” was a good movie – somewhat thought provoking – but NOT scary! The same can be said for the ORIGINAL “The Day the Earth Stood Still” – thought provoking, but not scary! I admit that there were some scary elements, but the point of that movie was to make us ASHAMED of being so automatically scared of aliens.

    I’m afraid that if you want a scary movie about aliens, then they almost HAVE to be mean – and not realistic, as many of us think they should be!

  3. megwood Says:

    I’m not exactly arguing that they can’t be mean — I’m arguing that they can’t be boringly obvious about it. Because the same ol’ same ol’? Is also not at all scary. Take, for example, this piece of crud.

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