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Movie Review - The Fourth Kind
The Fourth Kind is a sci fi horror film released in released in 2009, and presented as a re-enactment of a true story. It stars Milla Jovovich in the lead role, and is directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi. Warning: there are spoilers below!
The film centers around Abigail Tyler, a psychiatrist living and practicing in Nome, Alaska, who is recovering from the unsolved murder of her husband. At work, she interviews several patients who have all mysteriously had the same experience of waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a white owl peering at them through the window. Abby puts one of the patients under hypnosis to try to get to the bottom of the strange memories, and in his altered psychological state he recounts a terrifying experience of someone or something entering his bedroom and tormenting him. Later that night, he commits a murder suicide, killing his wife and children in an attempt to "protect" them from the same fate. Before killing himself, he speaks the words "Zimabu Eter", which no one can understand or translate.
Things get even more bizarre when Abby's secretary insists that she listen to a dictation tape that she had made the night before. The end of the tape recorded Abby screaming in terror and desperately fighting with someone, along with an inhuman voice snarling in an unidentifiable language. Worse, Abby has no conscious memory of any of it, with only the tape and fingernail scratches on her bedroom floor to convince her that it's real. She contacts a language expert who listens to the tape and identifies the words as Sumerian, one of the oldest languages in human history.
After a second hypnosis session that results in a patient levitating and speaking in tongues, Abby tries to flee town but is caught by the local sheriff who blames her psychology treatment for the deaths and injuries that have been plaguing Nome. The aliens attack again, kidnapping Abby's daughter Ashley. She is left mentally broken, unable to convince anyone of what really happened to her or her daughter.
The most memorable aspect of this film was the addition of supposedly real footage of the hypnosis sessions, along with footage of an interview with the real Abigail Tyler. Some scenes are split in half down the screen, with the recorded footage on one side and the recreated movie footage on the other. I've never seen this technique used before, and it made things a bit more interesting; kind of a blend between found footage and a straight horror film. My favorite scene involved a hypnotized man getting so scared by what he sees that he leaps backwards over the couch, knocking over a lamp in the process. Even if we couldn't see what he did, his reactions convince the viewer that it must have been absolutely terrifying!
I thought the movie did a good job building up the suspense around the mysterious occurrences. What appears to be a strange but harmless coincidence involving owls gets creepier as the first hypnosis session reveals bizarre hidden memories, then shockingly deadly with the murder-suicide. The suspense climaxes at Abby's tape with her terrified screaming and demonic sounding assailant, made even more skin-crawling because she doesn't even remember it happening. I feel sorry for that poor secretary who was expecting a regular, boring medical dictation!
On the other hand, the reveal of the alien attacker was confusing. I can understand the freakish sounding voice, because alien life forms logically wouldn't have the same kind of vocal cords that we do. But declaring itself God? Speaking in a 4000 year old language, even though it's clearly technologically advanced enough to know that more modern human languages exist? These things make the antagonists seem much more like demons than aliens. The effect is intensified in the hypnosis scene where the patient levitates and speaks ancient languages in a guttural voice, which looks very much like your typical exorcism. Mixing religion and extraterrestrial life is an odd choice, and it muddles the motives and nature of the aliens.
Another thing I disliked was the reveal at the end that Abby's husband, who she believed she witnessed being murdered, actually committed suicide. Which makes sense, except for the part about her friends and colleagues keeping it a secret from her. Why? Why let someone continue to believe a delusion that you know is untrue, especially when the deluded person is a practicing doctor? That part was actually less realistic to me than the demonic aliens!
Is it Real?
Viewers did research about the subject and participants of this film, and it turn out that the "actual footage" is fake. The real Abby Tyler is actually British actress Charlotte Milchard, and the supposed archival footage was filmed alongside the rest of the movie. The creators of the film even got in legal trouble for making fake news articles about the fictional Abigail Tyler and attributing them to real Alaskan newspapers! The only true thing about the film is the disappearance of citizens of Nome, twenty four of whom have gone missing over the last 40 years with no definite explanation.
I'm not a big fan of UFO and alien abduction stories, so I had low expectations going into this film. However, it turned out to be more enjoyable than expected. The addition of the "real" found footage was an interesting touch, and helped crank up the suspense a bit. I can't say that finding out that it's fake affected my opinion, since I enjoy found footage horror movies and all of them are fictional anyway.
I give The Fourth Kind a score of 3 out of 5 stars. Not amazingly good, but worth a watch if you like horror movies and have some time to kill. The movie is available on home DVD and Netflix.