"The Fourth Kind" is all kinds of scary

Nov. 9, 2009, midnight | By Jasmine Sarjeant | 13 years, 7 months ago

Director juxtaposes fact and fiction for a frightening film

Horror films like "The Fourth Kind" have solidified the horror industry's change from gore and sadism to the kind of psychological thriller that made Alfred Hitchcock a household brand. With a recurring style of imposing suspense and cinematography over gruesome and gaudy storylines, the meaning of hardcore thriller is being redefined and "The Fourth Kind" is more than enough proof that the change is for the good.

Despite its obvious parallels to "Paranormal Activity," "The Fourth Kind" stands solid as a thriller that cleverly integrates fact and drama for an entertaining and truly frightening experience.

"The Fourth Kind" is based on the true story of Dr. Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich), a physician who has been independently investigating a sting of unexplained murders and disappearances in her town of Nome, Alaska. The majority of her patients either refuse to talk about what they've seen or have no recollection of events, so she puts them through sleep hypnosis. While the process is somewhat successful it is also questionable: almost all of the patients experience some kind of physical trauma. In her pursuit for the truth, Tyler and her family are thrown headfirst into the abductions and her life quickly deteriorates into a cycle of misery.

Almost all of this movie's strength comes from Osunsanmi's use of the original footage to compliment his Hollywood-infused dramatization of actual records. There are numerous scenes throughout the film, the majority of them being Dr. Tyler's interactions with her patients, in which Osunsanmi uses a split screen to compare the real Dr. Tyler's sessions with Jovovich's interpretations.

His choice to incorporate these tapes adds believability that's often missing in classic alien abduction stories. The ability to see his interpretation side by side with actual recorded events grounds the film and strips it of the garish but superficial Hollywood label associated with most horror movies. The power of the closing scene, in which Osunsanmi's interview with Dr. Tyler pans out to a revealing twist, is enough to convince the strongest skeptic that the story is real.

The movie's faults stemmed from poor acting. Although Jovovich, previously of the "Resident Evil" franchise, delivered a compelling performance, many cast members' performances translated as stiff or disastrously over-dramatized. That was certainly the case with characters like Sheriff August (Will Patton) who suffered from the latter: Patton's delivery was often over exaggerated. In contrast, the creative directing and the powerful use of real-life footage were enough to redeem the film and render it a true thriller, however you define it.

The Fourth Kind (98 minutes) is rated PG-13 for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality.

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