Brandon's Word: The Fourth Kind is Outright Malarkey!
by Brandon Lee Tenney
November 6, 2009
DISCLAIMER - Please Read Before Continuing:
So, here's the thing. This past week I found myself in Orlando, Florida. (I'll spare you the details, but it had something to do with me turning yet another year older, a seven-hour game of Monopoly, and a hedgehog.) While in Orlando, William Goss invited me to attend a screening of The Fourth Kind with him. Since I was missing all of the Los Angeles screening dates, I thought, Why not? Truth be told, the trailer was (hell, still is) one of my favorites of the year. It's creepy in all the right ways. It's intriguing without giving too much away, and it's visually stunning. That said, I was pretty damned excited to see The Fourth Kind.
CUT TO: A darkened theatre, more than a few cell phones fleck the blackness like annoying little fireflies. My eyes narrowed, an eyebrow raised: What the fuck just happened? What the fuck just happened was that the film's reels were arranged in the projector out of order. If I were to guess, I'd say reels one and two were placed as they were supposed to be, but reels three and four were swapped and reel five remained at the end. Regardless of the order, the end was in the middle and the middle was at the end. Therefore, I was privy to an unintended cut of The Fourth Kind where the film did its best to end an hour or so in and the middle did its best to set up the end far too late.
I'm telling you all of this because this experience is by no means what you should expect if you choose to see The Fourth Kind in theatres this weekend. I'm also telling you this because it has undoubtedly effected my ability to review The Fourth Kind. However, I'm writing this review anyway because even having seen a butchered cut of the film, I'm quite certain I saw enough to at least provide you all with an honest reaction and critique of parts of the film. I also believe in a semblance of transparency; it's only fair that you know that I didn't see the film as it was intended. Take from that what you will. But even if you choose not to continue reading, if you think that me dubbing The Fourth Kind malarkey is itself malarkey, at least know this: I think having the reels out of order was only an improvement upon the film.
Note: SPOILERS BELOW
The Fourth Kind is fiction. Make no mistake about that. The film is a fictionalized actual account involving actual actors who then reenact those fictionalized actual accounts as themselves, but also as the fictionalized characters from those "actual accounts." Confused? Yeah, well, The Fourth Kind is too. And that's its biggest problem; it's just too much of everything and not enough of one thing. That thing being, in a word, focus. As the film starts, Milla Jovovich introduces herself as herself, actor Millia Jovovich, and lays out the film's plan (as I've stated above, but not in so many words) that she and the other actors in the film will be reenacting the real found-footage recorded, for the most part, by Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist from Nome, Alaska, involving a string of unexplained disappearances. From there, the film layers these reenactments on top of the video recordings from Dr. Tyler's "archive" of "case studies." It also splices in a "real" interview conducted by the actual director of the film, Olatunde Osunsanmi, and the supposedly "real" Dr. Abigail Tyler. Oh, and creepy images of owls. There's lots of those.
After reading that, I'm hoping that your thoughts are synonymous with something along the line of, "That doesn't sound good at all. I thought this was about aliens?" Rest assured, it is. It's very much about aliens, in fact. The premise is actually quite terrifying. Hundreds of unexplained disappearances in the desolate town of Nome, Alaska (a town that can only be reached by air travel). Shared visions, shared black-outs between residents of Nome, collective unconscious style. And when we, the audience, become privy to the "actual" abductions, well, they're affecting. Some of the case studies, in all their grainy video-glory, are pretty creepy. A slack-jawed Dr. Tyler settling back to her couch after being levitated by some other-worldly force. But, alas, there's not enough of them. Those videos will start only to be split-screened with the reenactment, playing side-by-side, just so you know what's going on. As if it's even possible not to know.
Which brings me to my next complaint: The Fourth Kind thinks you're an idiot. It thinks anyone within a half-mile radius of a theatre projecting it is an idiot. On top of the split-screens to usher us into the reenactments, like a mother leading her toddler across a busy intersection, the dialog in the film is just, well, it's just the worst. On the nose, uninteresting, and more like a stream of consciousness of what you, the audience, should be thinking rather than what actual people should be saying. Milla Jovovich is serviceable in her role. Elias Koteas is actually quite good as Jovovich's colleague, Abel. But there's one character, played by Will Patton of all people, who may actually go down as one of my Top 3 worst characters of the year: Sheriff August. Sheriff August is about as stereotypical a small town, bumpkin police officer can be. He's ignorant and needlessly hot-headed. He's downright stupid and is apparently without any sort of deductive reasoning skills. Oh, and he's terrible at his job. It's almost phenomenal how outlandishly bad Sheriff August is. That is, if it wasn't so horrible. Which it is.
So what of the plot? That plot that had so much promise. It all falls a bit flat, not because it's uninteresting, but because it's kept at such a distance from the audience. With nearly four degrees of removal from the "actual" happenings, I was never able to lose myself in the film. And because it's inevitable, due to the film's employment of "self-recorded, found-footage," The Fourth Kind is no Paranormal Activity. The Fourth Kind, in fact, is a spectacular foil for Paranormal Activity, allowing for a direct example to point to that elucidates exactly why Paranormal Activity is such a success. Paranormal Activity is a film by which all of these types of films will be judged for a long while forth. In that film, there's one degree of separation from the events being shown on screen. We're to believe that the events being shown actually happened because there's nothing else being shown on screen to tell us otherwise. No matter what happens on screen, we believe it because we have to. There's no other choice.
But with The Fourth Kind, there is a choice. There's tons of them. At the very beginning we're told that what you're going to see is real, but it's going to be reenacted and embellished. Right there, two degrees of separation. It's easy to remind yourself that what you're watching isn't real when, well, you've been told that it isn't. And when one's film is depending on that hocus-pocus that is convincing an audience that what they're seeing is actually, really real, the last thing that one should do is give the audience a reason not to believe. And when the most frightening scene in The Fourth Kind has half of the screen taken up by a the waveform from an oscilloscope while an alien is speaking broken Sumerian, it really shows that when there's a small degree of separation, the film may have worked.
Though it didn't. It doesn't. It could have further explored the Science vs. Belief in the skewed way that it hinted at, where it's the woman of science who's being persecuted for believing, but it doesn't. Not enough, anyway. And when it ends, we're left with a mishmash of Sumerian history (covered far more interestingly in the book Chariots of the Gods or the History Channel special "Ancient Aliens"), collective unconscious experiences, some creepy abduction scenes, a whole lot of disbelief, and an inconclusive conclusion that points toward Dr. Abigail Tyler's own psychotic break instead of an "actual" abduction. Oh, and did I mention owls. There's lots of those.
It's kind of amazing the lengths the filmmakers went to to assert that The Fourth Kind is based, entirely, on reality. Having the actors who played the characters in the "case studies" uncredited, launching an ill-fated web campaign, and convincing some old-media outlets that the stories are real. It's amazing because all of that work (that really didn't work in the first place) is undermined by the film itself. The Fourth Kind is only mildly entertaining, more often for how ridiculous its characters act and how unbelievable its plot becomes, and it's thoroughly insulting. And I love aliens. I love alien movies. I love abduction theories and UFO sightings and extraterrestrial conspiracy theories. But I did not, I do not, love The Fourth Kind.
I'd say I hated it, but hate is too strong an emotion. I'm merely indifferent to it. And that's the absolute worst a film can do, in my opinion. To evoke nary an emotion at all. Oh, but did I mention there's owls? There's lots of those. And they were pretty cool, I guess.
You are malarkey Brandon!
Josh Lucas on Nov 6, 2009
Brandon Lee Tenney on Nov 6, 2009
Yeah, I do have to admit that you seeing the movie cut-up does kinda discredit your review. I mean, you of all people should know how phenomenally important something like that is. But anyway... So wait, the original case studies in "Fourth Kind" were real though, right? Or is that just movie marketing BS? Because that strikes me as really ironic that "Paranormal Activity" which is entirely fabricated, is more believable then "the Fourth Kind" which is based on actual events.
DRM on Nov 6, 2009
Great review, Brandon! Sheriff August was the WORST. I'll probably see it (in correct order) again, just to get the whole experience. But, it was definetly no Paranormal Activity... that's for sure.
Elycia on Nov 6, 2009
I know Paranormal ( Activities ) budget was 15 000 $ ... Do anyone knows how much was the budget of ( The Fourth Kind ) ? ... And do you have any idea where the movie was shot ? Am I making a point here or .... !!! 😉 .... I am sure people who know me before knows what I am talking about ... !!! 😉 Brandon ... nice review man !
Shero on Nov 6, 2009
While I agree with nearly everything you have said I don't agree it was as bad as you say. The "actual footage" videos are terrifying and the film would have been better to do an entire movie through them... think Paranormal Activity meets The Fourth Kind. In a nut shell... you are correct.
Nick Papa on Nov 6, 2009
Best review I've read in a while. I'm a ufo researcher.
Magnolia Fan on Nov 6, 2009
I'm surprised there aren't a whole lot of good alien abduction movies out there. "Fire in the Sky" is about the only one that comes to mind. I guess you could count "Signs", but I thought it was kind of stupid. "Fire in the Sky" is probably the best alien abduction movie out there and it really creeped me out. I don't like how everyone's trying to do these fake documentary movies now. If you want to make a creepy documentary on alien abduction, then just make one with real people who said they were abducted by aliens. Don't just throw together some fake story, some actors together, and say "it's based on real events". There's something called Google and people can check to see you're telling the truth. The same thing goes for ghosts, or any other horror topic. They got plenty of documentaries on stuff like this on TV, but at least they're enjoyable to watch because they tend to interview real people, look for evidence, etc. While some of the people might be lying, or mistaken in what they saw, at least you're discussing real claims instead of made up BS that everyone knows is BS. Nobody knows for sure if they're lying, but when you have a movie like this, most people know you're lying, so that part in the back of people's mind that might say, "It's a documentary, so what they're saying must be true" won't work. If that doesn't work, then all you're left with is a cruddy movie, with bad acting, and lame camera work.
Brad on Nov 6, 2009
For sure, DRM. Hence the disclaimer. But even piecing it back together in my head after the fact, it didn't resonate with me. Though, as you said, seeing a film as it's intended--especially in the order it's intended--is paramount. That aside... NO! The "case studies" are not real! The Fourth Kind is fiction. The actors in the "case studies" are left uncredited, as I said, to sell the ruse (as Paranormal Activity did by having no credits at all). But nothing is real. Although it's not quite the irony you speak of, it still is quite an accomplishment that Paranormal Activity seems to have made us believe quite effortlessly where as The Fourth Kind has tried so hard with less success.
Brandon Lee Tenney on Nov 6, 2009
#4: Im happy its no Paranormal Activity, because that movie downright was bad. I think i was over-hyped thinking it would be a scary flick, but in the end was just all the same. [REC] still to this day scares me, and its filmed somewhat in the same style (1st person w/ camera).
Nikhil Hariharan on Nov 6, 2009
Newest hype on the web is not cat vids anymore, but ppl scratching owl's heads......
David Banner on Nov 7, 2009
Didn't want to read for spoilers. Still unsure about seeing this. You were in O-Town!!! Darn, I would have headed over.! lol What theater did you go to?
Tra la la la la di da on Nov 7, 2009
Do you even get to see the alien in this movie or just reactions from the abductees??
sho on Nov 7, 2009
I don't quite believe that The Fourth Kind is in fact malarkey, but then again I'm open minded. What I mean is....maybe the footage was in fact real? They can't all be drunk Alaskans killing themselves and well...becoming 'lost' without a trace. Thats almost degrading... Why is it so hard to believe theres a different life sorce out there? Just because science doesn't prove it doesn't mean its in fact fictional. Many people believe in god do they not? And if like they showed in the movie (the ability for that other life form to make us forget about what truly happened) then well....Maybe we've all been abducted w/o relizing it? Ha. If anything...its fun/interesting to actually think about it.
No Name on Nov 7, 2009
No Name: First and foremost, this is not the forum to have a religious debate. Second, I think you're missing the point of my review: I'm not saying that the *theory* of abductions as they relate to The Fourth Kind is malarkey (I happen to love abduction theories and I strongly believe in intelligent, sentient life outside our galaxy), I'm saying that The Fourth Kind as a film is malarkey. Is bogus. Is a sham. If they could have captured the mystery, the intrigue of even a History Channel special, then my thoughts on the film would have been very different. But, instead, The Fourth Kind treated me like an idiot. And that's malarkey.
Brandon Lee Tenney on Nov 7, 2009
Even if it wasn't real it has real similarities to demonic possession. 2nd Thessalonians 2:9-12 9 "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness."
M on Nov 16, 2009
i agree with the comment above...when dr. abigail is hypnotized in the movie, the thing inside her said that it is god..that is demonic possession. i would have to say that whether the case studies were true or not, this would not go along with UFOs or aliens, this is demonic influence on our society once more. the onlly difference between Paranormal Activity and The Fourth Kind is that Paranormal Activity straight up tells you that its a demon. I saw both movies and walked out of the theater more assured that Demonic activity happens everyday, everywhere. its a shame that the case studies arent true because now people write it off as if demons are fake. they arent...stories like this happen all the time, we just arent told.
mrv on Nov 16, 2009
I wonder if there's a way to find out the names of the actors in the "original footage".
nechus on Jan 21, 2010
Paranormal Activity was pure crap. Bad acting and tiresome. I got over the documentary-style filming when Blair Witch came out. That's it. One decent movie....we get it. Then came Clover Field...Jesus Effing Christ. Enough already. Paranormal Activity was no better. We know going in that it is fake. That makes the night vision, home movie, shaky camera bullshit the more retarded. I'd much rather watch something that doesn't insult my intelligence. So I can't justify calling one good and the other trash (As this blog post seems to do). The Fourth Kind is what it is...and Paranaormal Activity is by no means anything to measure other films by. It's a poorly acted piece of crap.
Vinng on Feb 10, 2010
I'd say I hated it, but hate is too strong an emotion.
speakGerman on May 18, 2010
This is strictly my opinion I actually liked the movie. The Fourth Kind, which was set in October of 2000 and allegedly based on actual events stared Milla Jovovich as Dr. Abigail Tyler, of Nome, Alaska. Dr. Tyler is a psychotherapist whose videotaped sessions with her patients offer compelling evidence of alien abductions ever documented. I found no embellishment of the movie, and feel the actors filled in well for the parts that weren’t on tape. It would have been terribly boring to sit through 60 some hours of the actual tape-recordings alone. I’d still like to know however, who did they hire to speak in the Sumerian language? It’s the oldest known language in history, and was obviously on the tape, or was that bogus as well. The speech emitting from the tape was unquestionably bizarre. (The speech I feel was almost demonic or at the very least unearthly). Lot of good feed-back.
Ray on Apr 21, 2012
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