"The Fourth Kind" is being sold to the public on the wings of a gimmick. This is not a first for Hollywood, joining the likes of "White Noise" and "The Haunting in Connecticut," which used marketing angles based upon the suggestion of truth to sell an exhaustively fictional event. However, "Fourth Kind" is far more aggressive, flat-out daring the viewer to believe this alien abduction tale. It's the kind of chutzpah that all but promises a scintillating, skin-crawling motion picture, but "The Fourth Kind" is actually quite stunningly ineffective for all the hot air it generates.
Please bear with me here, as the concept is a little convoluted. "Fourth Kind" posits the idea that director Olatunde Osunsanmi is assembling footage to investigate the strange case of Psychiatrist Abigail Tyler, who, while living in Nome, Alaska, was witness to alien visitations through her patients. Using video footage that documented the alien possessions and assorted otherworldly happenings, Osunsanmi fills in the gaps of the proof through a dramatic recreation shot with actress Milla Jovovich as Abigail. Blending the "real" and the Hollywood, "Kind" seeks to develop a thorough portrait of mysterious Nome incidents, presenting evidence of a horrific alien event that places the burden of belief on you, the viewer.
As passionate a hoax as it may be, "Fourth Kind" is still a hoax. Even if the whole story turned out to be horrifying fact, I still wouldn't believe it. Thanks to Osunsanmi's limited assets as a filmmaker, "Fourth Kind" is a dreary, uneventful ride that fails to conjure a convincing argument for authenticity.
The mix of video and film is clever enough to lend "Fourth Kind" an arresting identity. The film is eager to play mind games with the viewer, selling Abigail's torment through interview footage of the shattered woman as she recounts her ordeal to Osunsanmi. Trouble is, reality just can't be manufactured, and it's difficult to believe anything the film is pushing due to the irritating artificiality of the performances. Had the film stayed in glossy recreation mode, it might've encouraged a deeper sense of fear and mystery.
Furiously juggling videotape documentation with film overwhelms Osunsanmi's skill level, as the director attempts to tighten the vise through painfully clichéd filmmaking moves, the most torturous one being a ridiculous usage of jittery handheld camerawork to suggest intensity. There's also a bizarre attempt to keep the film's employment of split screen lively by moving the divider back and forth, manufacturing energy where the film has none.
As for this collection of hard evidence, it's also a bit of a cheat. The video sequences are appropriately hollow and atmospheric, yet the electromagnetic energy of the alien presence just happens to fuzz out the money shots. Osunsanmi relies on transcription of Sumerian language outbursts and volume shocks to help cook the tension, resulting in a few stunning moments of visitation, but nothing that's able to sustain an entire feature film or win over mounting doubt. The rest of the picture is ineffective suspense brought on by vicious overacting (Will Patton as the skeptical sheriff is particularly grating) and a tepid story that doesn't develop beyond VHS parlor tricks.
The VC-1 encoded image (2.35:1 aspect ratio) looks way overcooked at times, with an overly contrasted image making for inky shadow detail. Skintones often read too pink, making the cast look overheated instead of intensely frightened. Detail is acceptable, best with facial work and chilly exteriors. It's an erratic presentation at times, with colors nicely pronounced, but the clarity of the image is inconsistent, often looking wonderfully lush, while other sequences drop off in detail. The intentionally low-res material looks the part, but the overt tinkering is easy to spot, often distractingly so.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix is punch in the face at times, making terrific use of the film's aggressive soundscape. The "visitation" sequences are rightfully chaotic, offering a satisfying distortive quality while rumbling heavy with a hefty bottom-end. Surrounds are active, encouraging the violent mood with burly directional effects and environmental atmospherics. Dialogue isn't always pronounced on the track, occasionally swallowed by the low-fi activity. DV footage is suitably thin and believable, balanced out well with the rest of the picture's full-throated hysteria. French, Spanish, and DVS tracks are also available.
English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
"Deleted Scenes" (23:12) offer more time in therapy for Abigail, new moments of domestic discomfort, a more developed backstory for Abigail's troubled husband, and a few scattered suspense beats. Some of the scenes are presented in an unfinished state, leading to some unintended awkwardness.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
For the "Fourth Kind" to work as intended, it simply must convince the home audience that the camcorder footage is authentic. I never felt comfortable believing Abigail, and most of the picture comes across as an amateurish prank created by someone itching to be clever, without the aptitude to accurately sell a complex hoax to the viewier. Attempting shock value and extraterrestrial disturbance to generate a cult smash, "The Fourth Kind" will likely tire audiences before it ever has a chance to swindle them.