The Fourth Kind, a combination of (already pretty thoroughly debunked) “real footage” of alien abductions and soapy reenactments of the same, takes an initially novel approach to its hokum, but doesn’t amount to much. In terms of spooky, invasive xenophobia, Olatunde Osunsanmi’s new film isn’t a patch on 1993’s Fire in the Sky, or even 1989’s bug-fuck loopy Communion (aka the movie where Christopher Walken seems more normal after being probed). That said, genre fans missing their weekly Mulder fix might get a few chuckles. Otherwise, hoo boy.
Set in the early ’90s, the story involves a remote Alaskan town with a history of disappearances and a disturbing number of shared dreams among the remaining residents. A plucky female psychologist attempts to unravel the mystery. B-movie-conventional as it sounds, however, any suggestion at a normal narrative is dispelled in the opening frames as lead actress Milla Jovovich looks into the camera to announce that, yes, she actually is Milla Jovovich. The fourth wall violations begin there: Whenever a new actor shows up, an on-screen credit identifies both their real name and the character they’re playing; reenactments share a split screen with camcorder footage of the purported real incidents; and the director himself occasionally busts in with questions for the participants.
On a formalist level, this is all kinda sorta interesting to think about, but as compelling narrative cinema, its potential squibs out fast. (The few decent pop-out-and-boo scares are diminished by the director’s artsy tendency to fade to black immediately beforehand.) Osunsanmi’s film certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, but without any real strength of convictions, or even the crackpotted energy of genuine conspiracy theorists, this just feels like a gimmicky, inordinately self-impressed attempt to cash in on the latest tabloid buzzwords. If this was made in the ’70s, it’d be narrated by Leonard Nimoy and chock-full of yetis and the Devil’s Triangle.