Review: “The Fourth Kind”

fourthkindmillaOoooh cold! Could you warm that up a bit first, please?!

I will give the new alien abduction “actual footage” parlor trick The Fourth Kind credit for one thing: It confused the hell out of me.

Unfortunately, the nature of my confusion had nothing to do with the subject matter of the film (alien visitations and the effects that they might have on unsuspecting humans), but rather with the fact that anyone involved in its making actually thought that it was a good idea to make a movie in this manner.

If you’re searching for signs of intelligent life in sci-fi filmmaking, look elsewhere.

fourthkindowlThis Hollywood owl will be portraying an actual owl

The basic premise of The Fourth Kind is so magnificently lame that I have a hard time even putting it down in words … but here goes. In the opening shot of the film, actress Milla Jovovich walks up to the camera and says (in so many words), “Hi, I’m actress Milla Jovovich and I’m playing the part of Dr. Abagail Tyler in this movie. The director has chosen to use actual audio and video footage from research of actual aliens by the actual Abagail Tyler in this movie, so I’ll be recreating actual events in between real archived footage.”

What she actually meant to say was: “They filmed two versions of every scene in this movie. In one, I play the lead character … and in the other, a significantly less hot and therefore more believable actress plays the same character, and you’re supposed to accept that it’s real. Good luck!”

fourthkindkoteashatElias Koteas‘ hat is portraying an actual hat

The result is one of the most scattered, ridiculous and patronizing filmgoing experiences in recent memory. If you buy for one second that the shabby faux-VHS recreations are actually real, I’ve got a bridge right down the street that I’d like to sell you. And knowing that the film is trying to fake you out once is compounded by the fact that it is then trying to fake you out again by the turbo-charging its own low-fi fake-out with flashy Hollywood camerawork and effects.

In short, The Fourth Kind pisses on your leg, tells you it’s raining, and then tries to sell you a raincoat made of dog hair and corn chips.

I actually think I feel bad for the actors, though – because they come out of this looking like supreme fools. See, within the context of a dramatic work, an audience is encouraged to take their knowledge that the people that they are watching are play-acting and put it aside – something that compelling filmmaking can help encourage. But when the actors are introduced as actors (each new character is introduced with a title card noting the actor’s name and who they represent in the “real” story) and placed aside “actual” footage, it only serves to emphasize the fact that they aren’t involved in any of this.

fourthkindwoodsThis supermodel-turned actress is playing an actual supermodel-turned-actress

As a result, a scene of Milla Jovovich having a nervous breakdown because her child is missing is absolutely H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S to watch – not because she’s a particularly bad actress, but because the movie has been reminding us for the past hour that this isn’t a character we’re watching, it’s a former supermodel doing a staged recreation of some actual event. Of course, that “actual” event never really happened, but the stupid central premise works against the film again, in a completely different way. Had they not bothered with the “real” footage gag, there would at least be a chance that the movie-within-a-movie we were watching might engage us.

(Off-topic musing: Hey, what are the chances that Milla Jovovich signed on to this mess thinking it was a prequel to The Fifth Element?)

Can’t anyone just tell a good fucking story anymore? There’s absolutely nothing going on here beyond the parlor trick – nothing. Like Paranormal Activity, the filmmakers are banking on the gullibility of their viewers to do their work for them. Sorry – if I wanted to watch badly staged recreations of ridiculous “real-life” events, I’ll stay home and watch I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.

I’d say that The Fourth Kind is an unmitigated disaster, but it already has its defenders (I seriously can’t imagine how) so I guess it’s just a mitigated one. I found it ill-conceived, badly made and overall just stupid. If you can get a thrill out of this double-fake-out and a few pieces of artfully scrambled VHS footage with the volume cranked up, more power to you – I’ll be sticking with the Third Kind instead.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

ReviewOneSkully

The Fourth Kind is rated PG-13 for scenes of loud yelling, an incident involving a spooky owl and gratuitous bullshit.

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Buzz created CampBlood.org in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.