Osunsanmi has crafted an impressive and intelligent film and deserves to be recognized for his accomplishment.
While The Fourth Kind does not succeed in accomplishing its goal as an “Is this real or not?” sci-fi thriller, writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi deserves to be praised for his impressive effort and clear mastery of effective filmmaking techniques. Like the recent Paranormal Activity and that film’s predecessor The Blair Witch Project, The Fourth Kind attempts to convince the audience that what they are watching is real. Where the movie diverts from the style of the two films previously mentioned is in including both “authentic” footage and recreations of those events. This is a clever tool which adds an additional layer of complexity, but it is also, unfortunately, the film’s giveaway and downfall.
The movie opens with Milla Jovovich addressing the audience and confirming that all archival footage is real and that all dramatizations are based on factual evidence. Jovovich plays Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist who has begun noticing the strange number of missing persons in her town of Nome, Alaska. (We also meet the “real” Abigail Tyler via an interview with director Osunsanmi which is interjected throughout the film.) Before her husband was murdered, he was studying the disappearances and now Abbey has decided to continue his work.
As Abbey attempts to find an explanation for all the people that have gone missing, she continues to meet with her patients, several of which are having very similar disturbances at night. Here, we cut between the “movie” and the footage recorded by the “real” Abigail Tyler. After undergoing hypnosis, it becomes apparent that her patients have experienced something so traumatic that, psychologically, they cannot handle it. Dr. Tyler soon suspects that her patients, and hundreds of other Nome residents, have encountered or been abducted by extraterrestrial beings.
To say much more would be insulting to the movie which, again, succeeds in many ways. Osunsanmi has crafted an impressive and intelligent film and deserves to be recognized for his accomplishment. He is clearly a very capable director and storyteller, managing the suspense quite nicely. Ironically, though, it seems all his abilities as a director are actually a hindrance in terms of convincing the audience that what they are seeing is real. The archival footage is too high quality to be authentic, and the interview between the real Dr. Tyler and Osunsanmi doesn’t look like at all like a real television interview. The reason Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity and even District 9 work so well is that the filmmakers were able to create convincing images despite their small budgets. Here, however, Osunsanmi makes everything look too clean and professional to be believable.
That being said, The Fourth Kind does pose some interesting questions about discovering truth, and our place in the universe. Could we really understand life forms from another planet? Would our mental faculties allow us to process their presence or would we suffer mental and emotional breakdowns like Dr. Tyler’s patients? The movie also goes so far as to address issues of how the faithful choose to believe a divine intervention rather than an event supported by facts.
This movie is a valiant effort by a director who is sure to have a very bright future in filmmaking. Though the movie is unlikely to convince anyone that the events in Nome, Alaska are real, it is still a fantastically gripping movie that is only undone by the superior capabilities of its director. | Matthew F. Newlin