Thursday, November 5, 2009

movie review: The Fourth Kind

The Fourth Kind is a sci-fi flick written and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi and claims to be about the true story behind a series of mysterious disappearances and deaths in the remote Alaskan town of Nome. When the first thing you see, just like in the trailer, is Milla Jovovich approach the camera and say, “I'm actress Milla Jovovich and I will be portraying Dr. Abigail Tyler,” you know that you're in for a bit of a genre-bender, even as heavy-handed as that intro is. The film also stars Will Patton and Elias Koteas (I LOVE them...)

The main crux of the movie is about alien abductions as the theory explaining the strange occurrences in Nome, focusing in on a psychiatrist whose husband was murdered recently (relative to the time the story was told) and four of her patients who are all experiencing the same vision of an owl creeping outside of their bedroom window. Eventually, when put under hypnosis, two of the patients start to remember what happened. One patient's story ends tragically, the other's ends with a warning to Tyler from an unearthly presence. The unearthly presence doesn't give her enough time to repent her ways, however, before destroying her life and sending her on a dangerous path to discover what happened.

I'm trying to be vague in case you, dear reader, want to see it.

I'm no expert in extra-terrestrial goings on. I'm an open-minded skeptic. You tell me that you've seen aliens and, depending on the type of person I think you are, I may or may not believe you. The only aliens or UFOs I've seen have been on the television; however, I do think that alien-to-us lifeforms are absolutely possible. It'd be ignorant to rule it out completely especially when you consider how weird it is that we humans exist at all.

With a modicum of research on the internet, you can find out that Abigail Tyler doesn't exist. You might want to say that she's an amalgamation of people involved, but that's not how the film handles it. The film handles it as though she's real and is coming forward with this incredible, irrefutable proof of alien abductions while giving every other character an “alias” designation, blanking out names and going to great lengths to protect identities...except they don't hide the faces of the people in the “real footage.”

As I said in the projection log last night for my one-sentence review, “It's scarier than Paranormal Activity, but not exactly a good film.” There were quite a few fantastic set pieces in the film, parts that gave me goosebumps...and most of them revolved around the “real” Dr. Tyler. They way they did her make up, shot her, framed her...the woman's face was freakin' scary! Whatever they did to her made her look like an alien-human hybrid and it was very unnerving. Now watch, I've probably totally insulted some poor woman, but it's true. To me, she was one of the scariest parts of the movie and she wasn't supposed to be.

Several of the “real footage” clips are good, but only because you can't really see what's going on and when you can make something out, it's weird and freaky. I have a thing about human bodies being stretched out of proportion or doing something it really shouldn't (like the spider walk in The Exorcist.) There's a fair bit of that in this flick.

As for the “dramatic recreation” parts of the film, which comprise most of it's tight 98 minute runtime, the dialogue is contrived and these great actors are poorly directed. I think it's mainly because they're trying to be as close to the “real footage” as possible, but when the “real footage” isn't real and you know it, I can see that putting a damper on one's ability to act. The way the film is structured, the dialogue matches up, sometimes beat for beat, with the “real footage” or “real audio” and that further reenforces the unnaturalness of the performances in the “dramatic recreation.”

I think they were depending too much on the “real footage” for the depth the characters needed to be believable because the “dramatic recreations” were pretty flat. Sad part is, so was the “real footage.” At least the woman playing the “real” Dr. Tyler and Milla Jovovich seemed to be having the same problems in performing the character as she was written on the page. Patton's Sheriff August was poorly written overall and try as he might, he couldn't make him that believable. Koteas' Campos, a colleague of Jovovich's Tyler, was the most believable of the characters next to the underused expert in the Sumerian language played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim. (Sumerian is the language used by the aliens in the flick, harkening to the idea that we were created by the aliens.)

The film itself is like a feature length episode of Unsolved Mysteries, but with big budget Hollywood trickery and big name actors taking on the roles in the recreation. Well, Patton and Koteas are big names to me, anyway. I thought the surround foley was rough and too loud in some scenes, but otherwise everything in the film was technically proficient if not slightly overwrought.

Overall, and this may surprise you, I did like the flick. It has a lot of problems and requires the audience to make huge leaps in the suspension of their disbelief, but I applaud the filmmakers for trying something new with the genre and conventions even if it's really just something that's been on the small screen for decades. I'd probably even see it again.


KLo said...

The idea of watching a "feature length 'Unsolved Mysteries'" sounds intriguing : )

Marvin the Martian said...

Milla could sit in a chair and stare at the wall and she would still be fascinating. "The Fifth Element" was as good as it was because of her. Well, and because of Bruce. And Gary Oldman. And Chris Tucker. The whole cast, really. The "Resident Evil" films, eh. "Ultraviolet," eh. She's fun, though, always brightens the screen.

I saw Elias Koteas the first time in "Some Kind of Wonderful." He was so funny as the punker kid.

Marvin the Martian said...

You're quiet lately.

Lori said...

Yeah, I've been busy...I was hoping to have something to post about but the other half of why I've been busy hasn't gotten back to me so I don't want to post anything prematurely.