The Fourth Kind is a movie in which many crazy people are interviewed. It also contains nearly a millisecond of creepy, potentially real footage taken by a mentally ill hypnotherapist in Nome, Alaska. The rest is padding, really boring padding. At least that’s my point of view. I write this knowing there are a great many moviegoers who will feel differently. These are the people who watch Ghost Hunters and find it compelling, people who take their horoscopes seriously, people who want to believe. Because even though the title of the film refers to a type of contact with extraterrestrials, Fourth Kind has more in common with a ghost story told around the campfire than Steven Spielberg’s now classic Third Kind encounters. This is a movie for the conspiracy theorists and the superstitious. It’s a movie that builds itself entirely on convincing its audience that everything in it is real and to do that they’ll have to be convinced long before the projector starts projecting, because there’s nothing in this glorified Power Point presentation that stands up to even the most cursory scrutiny. It doesn’t even really do a good job of convincing itself.
Still, I have to give The Fourth Kind at least a little credit. They’re trying something different. The movie is, in theory at least, a recreation of actual events recorded by one Dr. Abigail Tyler. Not Abby or Abigail or even Mrs. Tyler. You’ll hear titles like “Doctor” thrown around a lot in this movie, I guess they think simply saying her title a lot makes her credible. She can’t be crazy, because she went to college! But what really separates Abigail from the average, hastily abducted hillbilly, is that she has video footage to back up her claims of creepy encounters in the far north and so, rather than simply hiring Milla Jovovich to re-enact Tyler’s claims, they’ve gone split screen. At key moments in the film you’ll find Fourth Kind alternating back and forth between grainy, apparently real, video camera footage and a re-enacted version starring Milla Jovovich as Dr. Tyler. It’s creative, but there’s not enough substance here to justify it.
If you aren’t already a believer in this sort of thing, then right now you’re probably asking this question: If this supposedly “real” archival footage is so compelling then why do we need Milla Jovovich at all? Answer: The archival footage is actually pretty boring. Still, that archival footage is sure to be the focus of most moviegoer’s interest after seeing it. The question on everyone’s mind is and will continue to be: Is this footage real? Universal insists that it is, but this could easily be a marketing gimmick akin to warning moviegoers to wear diapers to a horror film because it’s so terrifying; or alternatively the studio itself could have been duped. Ultimately I’m not sure it matters since so very little of the footage is worth watching. There’s a shot of a guy yelling, a barely visible police video of a man executing his family (because I guess only people influenced by aliens commit murder?), and then a lot of fuzz where supposedly the never seen aliens blanked out the cameras, conveniently, in all the most interesting spots. The one exception to this is the aforementioned single, millisecond shot of a man apparently in his bed and floating. This is indeed very creepy (but also easily faked). One mere moment of home video footage does not a movie make, and so we’re given Milla as a stand in for the real Dr. Tyler.
Milla’s re-enactments however, aren’t much better than the thinly spread archival footage. The entire first half of the movie is spent on interviews in which people sit around and tell Milla about strange things that have happened in extremely vague terms which could literally be interpreted as just about anything. They sit and tell us as opposed to what movies usually do, you know, show us. The Fourth Kind never shows its audience anything, maybe because there’s nothing to show, but the film would have you believe it’s simply trying to let you make your own decisions about what really happened. I think they just ran out of footage.
Once they run out of footage there’s nothing left to do but look at the audience and hold up a big question mark. The film’s obligatory skeptics are presented as close-minded people who can’t accept the truth while believers are brave and woefully misunderstood. But then the movie starts undermining its own case as the curtain is pulled back and it’s confirmed that, yep, most of these people were demonstrably crazy. The Fourth Kind sums itself up pretty well actually when shortly before the credits roll the film’s mostly credible Sheriff sagely observes that once you’re insane you can’t suddenly become sane whenever it’s convenient. The Fourth Kind attempts to shine a light on a moment of lucidity amongst a fireworks show of insanity. All I saw was insanity. Insanity itself can be interesting, but the movie’s worst sin isn’t its lack of sagacity but its lack of excitement. Boring interviews, even presented with gimmicky re-enactments and a lot of screaming, are still in the end, just boring interviews. The Fourth Kind is a dead end investigation.