The Fourth Kind
by M. Faust
Spoilers ahead! If you are looking forward to seeing this film, please don’t read this until after you have done so. But by all means read it then.
I don’t know about you, but I hate being lied to (on which topic, thank god another election is out of the way). I especially hate mass-media lies that fake media tropes of reality, like the radio station promos featuring fake calls praising the format, or commercials with “real” testimonials that are actually delivered by actors.
The Fourth Kind opens with actress Milla Jovovich addressing the audience as herself. She explains that what we are about to see is based on actual events that took place in Nome, Alaska in October 2000. Because some of those events were recorded on audiotape and videotape, that footage will be worked into the film.
We then see Jovovich as Dr. Abigail Tyler, a researcher studying sleep disorders. She has discovered a pattern in people who, under hypnosis, recall terrifying memories that go blank. These memories are so intolerable that some people prove unable to live with them.
As the film goes on, it seems to be working to intensify the differences between the “fictional” and “real” footage. When actors appear on screen (among them Elias Koteas and Will Patton), a title identifies them by name along with the name of their character. At other times, the archival footage of people under hypnosis and the recreations are presented side by side in a split-screen.
This is certainly all very strange. And it gives the film an unsettling intensity, especially as we learn what is at the center of these experiences. (Hint: If the title reminds you of a certain Steven Spielberg movie, that’s intentional. You may also be reminded of another Spielberg production, Poltergeist.)
But here’s the thing: As far as I can tell, it’s all bullshit. A few minutes on Google reveals no Dr. Abigail Tyler (other than on sites clearly planted by the filmmakers). The Web site for Chapman University, prominently featured in movie, pretty much admits that it’s all bogus but that it’s no big deal because audiences wouldn’t assume otherwise.
I disagree. Filmmaker Olatunde Osunsanmi may feel that he has hit on a clever method to involve viewers in his story, a la The Blair Witch Project (though if he hoped to build buzz a la that film’s pre-release internet campaign, he seems to have failed). But Blair Witch stopped at a line that Osunsanmi crosses. The Fourth Kind is a scary film if you accept it as reality, and not otherwise. To use that as an excuse to pass off lies, at a time when we see far too many instances of public policy being affected by callously propagated lies, is reprehensible. At the very least it’s a slap in the face of every conscientious documentary filmmaker who find his or her work being subjected to increasing skepticism by audiences who are being led to distrust everything they see.
Watch the trailer for The Fourth Kind
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