30 Days of Fright – 07: The Fourth Kind

Documentaries are not boring. Many of them involve killing and lately loads of them are about big scary aliens!

The Fourth Kind (2009) presents itself as a documentary that has certain scenes dramatised for the purposes of telling the story of events that occurred in Nome, in northern Alaska in the year 2000. The Film begins with Mila Jovovich addressing the audience directly and outlining what they are about to see.

Jovovich plays the part of Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist who, while treating a group of patients in Nome, herself got mixed up the events that took place there. She explains that all of the events in the film are backed up with documented proof in the forms of video and audio recordings and interviews with those involved, particularly Dr. Tyler herself. The director of the film, Olatunde Osunsanmi, interviews the real Dr. Tyler who tells the story of what happened to her and her family and patients in Alaska.
In 2000, Dr. Tyler and her husband were practicing psychologists who were involved in research in Alaska. Abigail’s husband Will is murdered one night while they both slept in bed and Tyler and her family were grieving his loss, with the Tyler children badly affected by the trauma. Two months after the murder, Dr. Tyler is working with a group of patients who all begin reporting the exact same problem. They all wake up in the middle of the night, every night, and notice a large white owl outside their window staring at them that won’t go away no matter what. One of the patients agrees to a form of hypnotherapy and while under reveals that the owl is in his bedroom standing over him and that it’s not an owl at all. The patient gets violent, obviously terrified, so Tyler wakes up from the hypnotic state and he goes home.
That night, Dr. Tyler is called to the patient’s house which is surrounded by cops as the man has pulled a gun on his family and is screaming for Dr. Tyler’s help. She gets there and talks to the man briefly before he shoots and kills his wife and children before quickly turning the gun on himself. Disturbed by this turn of events some of Tyler’s other patients go under hypnosis and reveal similar disturbing details of their nocturnal visitors that leads Tyler to the inevitable conclusion that the people of Nome are the victims of a series of on-going alien abductions. Tyler herself seems to be troubled by something visiting her as she accidentally leaves her dictaphone on one night in her bedroom and it records sounds of her screaming and an unusual voice speaking a strange language…
 ….and then I’m gonna show her my ‘O’ face… giggity!
The Fourth Kind is normally classified as a pure Sci Fi film, though some reviewers like to call it “spooky” or “creepy”. The reason I included it on the list of 30 Days of Fright movies is because the first time I saw it, it really gave me the creeps. Actually, that’s not true, it scared the piss out of me! Trust me Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a horror film!
The concept behind The Fourth Kind is that of the faux documentary. In order to have the audience accept that what they’re seeing is real, the entire film is dressed up in the way those re-enactment documentaries are that you see on the Discovery channel or the National Geographic channel, only this time they managed to get a known actress involved to play the lead. There’s a strong reliance on video footage allegedly recorded by Tyler and by the Nome police department as well as excerpts from taped recordings of Tyler’s sessions with her patients. The interview itself is really only used to hold the narrative together and to keep things progressing in the order they should. Of course, the whole thing is bullshit, every bit of the story is fiction and everyone is an actor, but that’s to be expected otherwise you’d have heard about all this years ago.
The way the film is presented is very clever. The way the screen splits to show how the actors are acting out the real footage is an exceptionally smart device, especially as the acted scenes aren’t perfect copies and allow for small amounts of artistic license. When characters are introduced the name of the actor playing them is flashed up on screen and the character name is either real or marked as an alias in order to protect the real person. All these tricks get you into a place where you do start to believe what you’re seeing, but it’s the supposedly real footage that packs the biggest punch and is also the biggest let down.
There are only a handful of scenes that Dr. Tyler recorded that are shown to the audience, and there are two or three recoded by the police. Tyler’s material focuses on her patients and herself going through hypnotherapy and show, albeit in a heavily distorted fashion, what happens in those sessions. The one scene where the dude in the bed freaks out is by far the best scene in the whole film and rightly put the shits up me the first time I viewed it. The two cop recordings, taken from dashboard cameras in their cars, which stick in my head are the weakest parts of the film as they are the most unbelievable, with one showing the murder/suicide and the other meant to be showing an alien spacecraft.
The first time I watched The Fourth Kind I wasn’t sure about it. Yes it was scary as a horror film should be but was it any good? The second time (last night) was a less frightening experience but I enjoyed the film more. There are some really smart bits in it – I really liked the hints that the Tyler’s were in Nome looking for aliens or whatever was causing the towns high missing persons rate, and there are other details that are just excellent (I won’t divulge them as they’d be spoilers). However, I’m not sure how well the film would work on an urban audience. If you live in a rural area then you can relate to the isolation that permeates the film and that’s needed to build the fear of being snatched away without anyone noticing.
The Fourth Kind has its weaknesses (like Jovovich rehashing her performance from Joan of Arc) but it also its strengths, and it’s scary enough to deserve its place on my list.
Two Thumbs Up for The Fourth Kind
A Guide to Internet Links:
The First Kind: Links to email
The Second Kind: Links to news sites
The Third Kind: Porn, of course!
The Fourth Kind: Links to details of last nights film

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