November 12, 2009

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The Fourth Kind (PG-13)
A psychologist treating people with sleep disorders comes to believe that her city may be menaced by aliens in The Fourth Kind, a movie that is Absolutely Positively Based on Genuine Fact.

Also, do you mind if I hold your credit card for a bit? I want to show you a magic trick involving your card numbers and my Amazon Wish List. It’s Real Magic, Supported by Witnesses.

The movie begins with Milla Jovovich facing the camera and telling us that she’s Milla Jovovich and she’s about to play a woman named Dr. Abigail Tyler in reenactments of scenes corroborated by witness testimony and archival video. Also, some of the images are very disturbing, she tells us.

The movie goes on to mix “documentary footage” and reenactments of Abigail Tyler finishing a sleep study in Nome, Alaska, started by her dead husband, whom we can call Red Herring Tyler. She talks to patients with trouble sleeping through the night, all of whom report waking up and seeing an owl outside their window. Under hypnosis, however, they ominously report “it isn’t an owl” and then go nuts with a screaming-in-fear fit. Slowly, she starts to think that these people believe they have had a run-in with aliens of the “fourth kind.” (As in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the “fourth kind” is a classification: The first kind being “hey, Martha, it’s a UFO”; the fourth kind is a ride on the space ship and some time with an alien probe.)

The “what you are about to see is absolutely true” gimmick of this movie is kinda cute. And, OK, “‘Kinda cute’ says Amy Diaz of The Hippo” is not something you’re going to see on the movie poster, but I liked the hokey B-movie quality to the story. Even the music seems like something you might have heard in a movie that once ran late at night on some local TV station or, later, on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I half expected Orson Welles to come out at the end, call us “ladies and gentlemen” and tell us not to be alarmed before going on to explain it was all a fake — or was it (eyebrow arch)? But ultimately, the movie isn’t the kind of “it could be real” shot to the core of your primal fears that Paranormal Activity is. And the pose that everything we’re watching is based on fact actually does more to bring us out of the movie than it does to embed us in the world of Nome, owls and aliens. C

Rated PG-13 for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality. Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi and written by Osunsanmi and Terry Lee Robbins, The Fourth Kind is an hour and 49 minutes long and is distributed by Universal Pictures.