Owls with Staring Problems

Movie Title: The Fourth Kind (2009)
Spoilers: No

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The idea that aliens are interested in planet earth and human beings is akin to the idea that a benevolent deity created mankind and takes a special interest in him. Both notions are salted with a fundamental sense of arrogance.

Partly, the idea of alien abduction sounds logical. If it turns out we are not alone in the universe, then this would generate a certain fascination in one type of life finding another. Studying human technology and biology would tell the abducting aliens about themselves, just as it would humans to discover alien life.

But as much as this is a reason to search out other life, it is equally a reason why a race of higher beings wouldn't be interested in us. Since the searching aliens would be an advanced race, they would likely have experience with other life forms prior to discovering us. If humans happened to be the first extraterrestrial life they encountered, it wouldn't take long to learn all that is relevant to them. Humans are more interesting to themselves than they would be to another form of life. Think about it for a minute.

The Fourth Kind, directed by and starring Olatunde Osunsanmi (he is the interviewer) and Milla Jovovich, is based on the opposite premise. The aliens are not just interested, but are obsessed with earth and with many people on it, especially people in Alaska where abides thousands and thousands of miles of wilderness, and where hundreds and hundreds of people can and do get lost every year. The aliens have had thousands of years to investigate and learn what they could from us, but according to The Fourth Kind, they're still not done. If the movie is any indication, they have set up shop here. They have no plans to leave.

And I'm not done stating why The Fourth Kind was a failure. It is (shamelessly) another in the line of “mocumentaries,” but without the appealing deceit. It goes to absolutely mental extremes to convince you that it is real, stating false facts from false experts, in the false vessel of a trumped-up story as phony as what we saw in The Poughkeepsie Tapes. It tries too hard to be real. That’s the big giveaway that it isn't. With its shebang of ear-racking sounds and extraneous dependence on long bouts of noise to convey a sense of shock or fear, it is a far-flung and poorly dramatized put-on.

Milla Jovovich is Abbey Tyler for the movie portions of the film. For the documentary portions, they picked a wide-eyed woman who couldn't look more like a mentally ill druggy who fell off the turnip truck. As a nonplus, her face is right up in the camera as she is “interviewed.” When it’s not, you are seeing floating bodies, hearing noises, and being spoon-fed “expert” testimony on a mysterious ancient language that seems to confirm ancient Sumerian ETs.

This “evidence” is, of course, rejected by one small-minded town sheriff in Nome, Alaska. It begins with the recent death of Dr. Tyler’s husband, Will (Julian Vergov), and some disturbing coincidences among her patients. These coincidences start her searching for answers as her patients inexplicably begin to see owls staring at them prelude to mental breakdowns.

Sheriff August (Will Patton) sets the tone for the show. He’s the classic skeptic. Dr. Tyler’s colleague, Dr. Abel Campos (Elias Coteas), is the closeted believer who isn't ready to be vocal about what he’s seen while monitoring some of Dr. Tyler’s patient sessions. To keep from facing ridicule and to safeguard his career, he’d rather keep his mouth shut. Dr. Tyler herself is the true believer, the one who must “keep hope alive” and get to the truth. With only slight variation, it’s the classic Hollywood lampooning of the hardnosed skeptic who must be shown that there is more out there. Another movie, same message; some of us are tired of it.

Why these aliens are after humans stays as wrapped in mystery as ever. We have no indication as to what they want or what they intend to do. But then, that’s usually enough for UFOlogists—just to feel that something sinister (or unexplained) is out there is enough to write books about that sound authoritative and dig around in the dry wells of the mythologies of dead religions to make “connections.”

These “connections” made by kooks and pseudo-scientists serve one valuable purpose—they become the backbone of good science fiction writing. But this is not good writing. It fails to entertain as surely as it misses the target in its tidal wave of woo-woo-ism that is supposed to take us away.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Summation: High numbers of missing persons in Nome, Alaska begins to convince a psychologist of UFOs.
Starring: Milla Jovovich “Abbey Tyler,” Will Patton “Sheriff August,” Hakeem Kae-Kazim “Awolowa Odusami,” Corey Johnson “Tommy Fisher,” Enzo Cilenti “Scott Stracinsky,” Elias Koteas “Abel Campos,” Eric Loren “Deputy Ryan,” Mia McKenna-Bruce “Ashley Tyler,” RaphaĆ«l Coleman “Ronnie Tyler,” Julian Vergov “Will Tyler”
Genre: Horror / Mystery / Sci-Fi / Thriller
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