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The Fourth Kind

Uncomfortably Close Encounters

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The release of The Fourth Kind could not be better timed, as it is just a few weeks removed from the release of the breakout reality-bending hit Paranormal Activity and will undoubtedly benefit at the box office as a result. Similar to Paranormal Activity, The Fourth Kind purports to be based on actual events and includes “actual” video footage associated with said events. Whether you believe in Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind (read: alien abductions) or not, you will be frightened.

The film opens with actress Milla Jovovich addressing the audience about some mysterious events that took place in Nome, Alaska in October 2000, and cautioning the viewers that what we are about to see may be disturbing. This jarring public service announcement gets the film off to an awkward start. But, in relatively short order the film goes from awkward to disconcerting to genuinely terrifying on a number of occasions.

Jovovich plays Dr.Abigail Tyler, a psychologist who is conducting a sleep disorder study in Nome. Tyler is haunted by the murder of her husband and feels compelled to proceed with this study as it was important to her now deceased husband.

She discovers some disturbing commonalities among her patients. Virtually all of them patients wake up in the middle of the night and see an owl looking at them. Sometimes the owl is outside and sometimes it is inside, but it is a recurring theme. It turns out it may not be an owl these people are seeing.

Tyler digs deeper into what her patients are experiencing via hypnosis and things go from bizarre to deadly. After a particularly disturbing hypnotic episode, one of her patients goes home, kills his wife, kids, and himself. Needless to say, whatever was uncovered during his hypnosis drove him to this behavior.

Jovovich does a reasonable job as the traumatized Dr.Tyler, but she is easily outshined by the disturbing accounts of the real Dr. Tyler who bears more than a passing resemblance to a concentration camp survivor. It’s unclear whether or not this Dr. Tyler is an actress or if she is indeed the doctor who was in the middle of the mysterious events that transpired in Nome in 2000. But, that’s part of what keeps that keeps the audience engaged in The Fourth Kind. You want to find what’s real.

Director Olatunde Osunsanmi (protégé of Joe Carnahan) makes an interesting choice in marrying the dramatization and the “documentary” footage associated with the “actual” events. The archival documentary footage associated with the sleep disorder patients is markedly disturbing, but you couldn’t really make an entire cohesive film with the archival footage, hence the marriage of two styles. But, this marriage is a bit awkward at times and it doesn’t work swimmingly.

One can easily shoot holes in the archival footage. Seemingly every time something dramatic and/or terrifying is happening, there is interference — the image and the audio become distorted. It’s a bit hard to believe that not once was the “real-life” Dr. Tyler able to capture some pristine footage of her patients disturbing hypnotic episodes.

But, the questionable footage is actually reassuring because if what unfolds in The Fourth Kind is even close to reality, few people would sleep soundly ever again. At the end of the day, this is what salvages the film. Whether any of it is real or not is really irrelevant, the The Fourth Kind succeeds quite well at terrifying.