'The Fourth Kind' review

Hanging in Fox Mulder’s cluttered X-Files office is a poster showing a flying saucer with the caption “I Want To Believe.” Well, I do want to believe.  Not just in the existence in life on other planets, but that Hollywood could create a quiet, intriguing and eerie alien flick for adults.

But try as he does to convince me otherwise, I never believed in director Olatunde Osunsanmi’s “is it real?” extraterrestrial invader film The Fourth Kind.

The premise of The Fourth Kind is that Nome, Alaska, a small town accessible only by air, has a long history of disappearances. Several residents of the town all seem to be having the same dreams of a white owl watching them, followed eventually by disturbing recollections of being taken by little gray men for experiments.  Milla Jovovich is Abigail Tyler, a psychiatrist studying the town’s sleep disorders through hypnosis when she stumbles on the abduction epidemic.

The Fourth Kind has a clever-on-paper concept where the “true” story of alien abductions is told through dramatizations intercut with “authentic” archival footage, audio and interviews from “real” people (yes, there’s a need for  a lot of quotation marks when discussing the “reality” of this movie). 

The movie is so anchored in the gimmick that the first scene is of actress Jovovich, as herself, explaining she’ll be playing the part of Tyler. We’re even warned that the real footage is disturbing. Then we see an un-credited, non-Jovovich actress – the real Tyler? – discussing the events of the alien involvement in a saucer-eyed, sleep-talk drawl during an interview with Osunsanmi. From there, each time a new character appears, we are introduced to the actor portraying him (“Elias Koteas as Dr. Abel Campos [alias]”) and then cut to file footage of their real-life counterpart.

As the film progresses, more evidence of abductions and experimentation is exposed. Presumably, the aliens get ticked about it because they target Tyler for being so pesky and break out with some nasty Sumerian threats. Wait, did I mention that the E.T.s speak a long-dead language and may have been visiting the Earth for millennia? As if that weren’t goofy enough, Will Patton (as Will Patton as Nome’s sheriff) decides to pin the strange deaths, injuries and disappearances on the increasingly unstable Tyler. Instead of pointing the finger at Tyler, though, I wish the sheriff was on the case of the owl, whose purpose is never explained in the film.

 The Fourth Kind is a hammy movie with a Swiss cheese plot and loaded with overacting.  But it could have been more enjoyable ham-and-cheese if Osunsanmi wasn’t force feeding a “true story” and trying so hard to convince audiences to believe, believe, believe.

There are some cool shocker moments that made me jump, and the spacemen are satisfyingly malevolent despite being off screen for much of the movie. But it’s harder to sell fabricated reality on film than it is to sell pure fiction. And ironically, the tiring and distracting “reality” of the movie is what makes it so hard for the suspension of disbelief needed here and prevents The Fourth Kind from being passable entertainment. The footage never feels real and, at best, resembles the re-enactment segments on pseudo-documentary series A Haunting on the Discovery Channel.

I wanted to believe The Fourth Kind could deliver the alien flick I’ve been craving, but all I was left believing is that this season’s other “real” movie, Paranormal Activity, deserves more credit than I initially gave it.