Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Fourth Kind

Is there something supernatural going on here, or is it something else?

Starring Milla Jovovich, this 2009 thriller purports to be based on the true story of psychologist, Abigail 'Abbey' Tyler. Nigerian writer and director Olatunde Osunsanmi, films The Fourth Kind in documentary style, that creates the illusion of reality, however, the story depicted is, at best hypothetical. Universal Pictures marketing machine even went to the extent of posting fake obituaries, and news articles on the web as part of their guerilla campaign. As of this writing, The Fourth Kind has only grossed $25,486,040 in domestic sales and only $45,192,880 worldwide. In spite of initial poor reviews by critics, The Fourth Kind is a compelling story that will allow the viewer to speculate along with the film.

The movie starts with Jovovich telling the viewer that she will be playing Dr. Abbey Tyler, and that the events depicted in the movie are real, and corroborated with actual archive footage of the events. With the third wall between the audience and the film, Jovovich goes on to inform us that the events occurred in Nome Alaska between October 1 and October 9, 2000. As I tell my kids, remember, it's just a movie...
The scene switches to an interview room where director Olatunde Osunsanmi, is asking Abbey about the events surrounding the incident that led to her being there. Abbey explains that Will, Abbey's husband, was in the middle of a government study of disappearances in the Nome Alaska area before his death. Abbey too is having issues coping with her husband's death as we witness her therapy session with her psychologist, Abel Campos played by veteran bad-guy actor, Elias Koteas ("The Haunting in Connecticut"). As confessor and confidant, Campos urges Tyler to take some time off, 'to step back and get some clarity,' about her husband's death, her work, and her mental well being. Insistent on continuing her husband's research, Abbey continues to see a montage of patients that seem to have the same issues with insomnia, disturbing dreams, and visions of an owl or a face of an owl hovering over them while in bed. Abbey too has her own problems as well, she was in bed with her husband Will when someone viciously attacks him with a knife, Abbey is screaming in terror as Will is lying in a pool of blood. Abbey's struggle with dealing with her husband's death is that although she was in the room, at the time of the murder, she can't remember the face of the man who killed her husband. Okay, right away the viewer is gonna think that Abbey might be off her rocker a bit, however, her daughter Ashley (Mia McKenna-Bruce), suddenly went blind due to the trauma of losing her father.

One of the many patients that see Tyler for help is with a man named Tommy who wants to get to the bottom these nightly disturbances and Tyler puts him under hypnotherapy. Tommy recounts the vision of the owl, but then he starts freaking out, while director Osunsanmi, cuts to 'actual footage," depicting the 'real event”, we see the patient Tommy, seemingly possessed and writhing about destroying a table lamp in the process. After coming out of hypnosis, agitated and not liking what he remembers, Tommy goes home. Later that night, Abbey receives a call from the sheriff, waking her from sleep, and telling her to get over to Tommy's house as he has a gun to his family and himself barricaded inside. Abbey races to the scene and once again, Osunsanmi uses the split screen to show several 'actual views," from police video, documenting the event. After talking to Abbey for a bit, Tommy screams what does 'Zimabu Eter' mean, and then offs himself and his family; Abbey's career as a hostage negotiator goes down the drain. Back at the sheriff's office, Abbey and the Sheriff go at it, as he asks if Tyler's hypnotherapy was the cause of the man murdering his family and himself. Warned that she should stop her husband's research, the sheriff lets her go. Tyler goes through another patient, but not before Osunsanmi, treats his audience to interviews with the “real” Abbey, played by but not credited, English actress Charlotte Milchard. The key to building credibility to the events that the audience is witnessing is by substantiating the language that Tyler's patients speak while under hypnosis and a tape recording made by Abby after falling asleep while dictating research notes. What Abbey, Campos, and her secretary, hear is something akin to the scene in the Exorcist were Father Damien has a recording of Regan analyzed only to find that she was not speaking a foreign language, but English, played backwards. In The Fourth Kind, we find through the help of Sumerian linguist, Awolowa Odusami (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), that the phrase repeated by Tommy and the words on Abbey's recording is the ancient and quite dead Sumerian language. Odusami, translates Abbey's tape and although doesn't come up with a complete sentence, he does catch the words 'examine," 'our creation," and 'destroy." Creepy, huh?

"The Fourth Kind" is not anywhere as magical as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, nor is it as dramatic as The Abyss; however, there are many things to like about this film. Although, this is Olatunde Osunsanmi's third directorial attempt, and he, like Lovecraft, relies on building suspense, adding detail and imagery to create a viable world, while raising the question in the audience mind, of his hero's sanity. The split screens are occasionally distracting; in a Cloverfield-Blair Witch Project, kind of way, but the plot is interesting and character development compelling. The musical score is tense, and the sound effects are chilling. Jovovich, Patton, and Koteas are all believable in their parts and even the 'actual' footage does inspire credibility. The Forth Kind's pacing although quick starts fast and maintains that speed until the final scenes where Osunsanmi, gives the viewer some time to take in all that has happened and mull over the final revelations. If you are watching a film about alien abduction in the first place, you have no doubt already allowed yourself a suspension of disbelief. There are some Memento (2000) moments throughout the film, where certain ‘facts’ that Tyler presents are disproved by the Sheriff August. If you like suspense, alien abduction flicks, and the supernatural, then The Fourth Kind is a film you will no doubt enjoy.

Movie Data

Genre:  Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Year:  2009
Staring: Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Elias Koteas
Director:  Olatunde Osunsanmi
Producer(s) Paul Brooks, Joe Carnahan, Terry Robbins
Writer: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 98 minutes
Release Date: 9/6/2009 

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