You’ve heard about close encounters of the third kind, of course, the extraterrestrial meetings that involve contact, presumably of a benign nature. The fourth kind involves a more invasive sort of contact: alien abduction, possibly including those uncomfortable probes about which the true UFO believers are always so nervous.
The Fourth Kind aims to capitalize on that fear, but while there are some genuinely creepy moments, it never truly ends up as more than an average X-Files episode, only without Mulder and Scully, their nerd-chic hotness and their crackling unresolved sexual tension (who cared about alien takeover when those two were stalking around in their designer trenchcoats).
This film hinges on the premise that it’s based on real case studies in Nome, Alaska, where residents start behaving in such strange, if not downright psychotic, ways that they often disappear completely. Psychologist Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich; stop laughing right now), whose husband has been killed in a mysterious attack, begins to believe her increasingly disturbed patients are being visited and spirited away by aliens. If only former Gov. Sarah Palin had known, she could’ve skipped shooting wolves from helicopters and set her sights on the skies.
Nobody believes Abigail, of course, particularly an extremely angry sheriff (Will Patton), not even when the malevolent, otherworldly beings turn their attention to her family. Even her friend and therapist (Elias Koteas) has trouble trusting Abigail’s story.
These developments are all fairly run-of-the-mill. Even the opening sequence, in which Jovovich and Osunsanmi address the audience to scare us into buying into the The Fourth Kind‘s “reality,” feel cheesy and underdeveloped.
Lending the movie a strong whiff of the eerie are the so-called “real” segments juxtaposed with scenes in which Jovovich acts out the same scene. Grainy and half-glimpsed, the “real” scenes are undeniably creepy, even if they’re not particularly real (no one, for example, has been able to find any record of an Abigail Tyler having a license to work anywhere in Alaska). The Fourth Kind may not be the most honest movie in the galaxy, but it’s got one thing right: With horror, what you don’t see is usually more terrifying than what you do.
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, Will Patton.
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi.
Screenwriter: Olatunde Osunsanmi, Terry Robbins.
Producers: Paul Brooks, Paul Carnahan, Terry Robbins
A Universal release. Running time: 98 minutes. Violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements, brief sexuality. Playing at area theaters.