THE FOURTH KIND
The Blair Witch Project analogy is not too inapt as The Fourth Kind similarly makes rigorous claims to be factual and incorporates supposedly real video footage of what happened during the therapy sessions and some of the possessions. Unfortunately, what came to the fore at the time of the films release was that this claim to factuality was in fact an elaborate fiction created by the films marketing department. Alaskan journalists investigated the films claims and found that Nome had no higher rate of deaths and disappearances than any other part of the state. The Alaskan Psychological Association stringently claimed that there had never been any Abigail Tyler registered with them. Furthermore, the various articles online supposedly giving weight to the story were found to be placed there by the studio publicity department a matter of months before the films release. This caused some outrage from families of people who had genuinely disappeared in Nome. In truth though, you cannot come down on The Fourth Kind for creating an effective marketing campaign and blurring the line so well that many people were taken in by the authenticity of what they were seeing. If only there had been a worthwhile film to go along with such an ingenious promotion scheme.
Director/writer Olatunde Osunsanmi does a fine job in immersing one into the authenticity of the happenings particularly good being his ability to use a split screen to contrast video footage with the real person in one section and the dramatised footage using Hollywood actors to play out the identical thing in the opposite frame. Osunsanmi has even inserted himself into the film as an interviewer talking to the supposedly real Abigail Tyler. There are some undeniably spooky moments like the scene where Enzo Cilenti suddenly becomes possessed, sits bolt upright and starts yelling in Ancient Sumerian. However, Osunsanmis staging of the dramatisations is a little too calculated. When it comes to what is happening, he relies on the video footage, which is blurred out with static and overexposed light sources. Osunsanmi has chosen not to dramatise these scenes, which in effect pulls a curtain down and deliberately obscures what is happening from us. However, this is a film where, at least if you have brought the publicity claims, you come to see it wanting to know what happened. The result ends up being a film that talks about a number of frightening things happening but lets its most dramatically interesting moments happen behind a conjurors curtain, tossing no more than a few flashes of light and shadow in our direction.
With the actual abduction scenes frustratingly vague, that only leaves on Olatunde Osunsanmis screenplay to fill in the rest, but this offers little. When the film introduces the Sumerian language, it is not long before Osunsanmi starts to grasp at Erich von Daniken and Ancient Astronauts, claiming that various Sumerian religious artefacts depict aliens in spacesuits and spaceships. Erich von Daniken (a multiply convicted fraudster) found fame in the 1970s in a series of books beginning with Chariots of the Gods (1968) with his thesis that aliens had come to Earth in the past where they had helped build many major ancient monuments and that some ancient carvings depicted these aliens. See the documentary Chariots of the Gods (1970) for more detail about these theories. These ideas were widely ridiculed by serious archaeologists and historians. Unfortunately, Osunsanmi shoots his claims to authenticity in the foot by jumping aboard such a long outdated bandwagon of pseudo-science. There is a downright weird section towards the end, which is never given proper explanation, where the agency possessing Dr Tyler makes the claim that it is God. She later states: What I felt was hopelessness. It was not God but it can pretend to be. If anything, this sequence seems to take The Fourth Kind into horror movie territory. However, the explanations that Olatunde Osunsanmi waves in our direction are too vague to ever provide an adequate handle on anything.
The Fourth Kind is also hamstrung due to the central role being cast with the perpetually non-acting Milla Jovovich. It is hard to accept her as a veteran psychologist, while her attempts to enact grief and upset at the disappearance of her daughter are embarrassingly inadequate. On the other side, she is at least boosted by a strong and angry performance from Will Patton as the sheriff and solid support from the always reliable Elias Koteas.
Olatunde Osunsanmi had previously worked in various production capacities and as an editor, before making his directorial debut with the horror film The Cavern/Within (2005) about underground monsters. Osunsanmi had previously worked as an assistant to Joe Carnahan who also acts as a producer here. Osunsanmi next made the Found Footage psycho film Evidence (2013).