Universal // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 16th, 2010
There are four kinds of alien encounters. The fourth kind is abduction.
It is an incontrovertible fact that those gray aliens with gigantic heads and black eyes are the scariest things ever. Do we finally have a horror movie that outdoes those 20 useable minutes of Fire in the Sky?
The Fourth Kind opens with star Milla Jovovich walking up to the camera, introducing herself as "Milla Jovovich" telling me she'll be portraying Dr. Abigail Tyler, and that everything I'm about to see is based on true events. In fact, there will be genuine archive footage from Dr. Tyler's interviews included with the "dramatizations."
Apparently, something odd has been going down in Nome, Alaska, with people disappearing, having their memories blotted out, and generally acting all suspicious-like, as if they had been abducted and probed with a Martian spatula.
"What you are about to see...is very disturbing," she says.
Oh boy! It's time for some creepy-ass aliens!
Ah, no. Sadly, we are denied visions of crazy little aliens with big eyes like the ones from those Time-Life books that kept me terrified and up all night as a small child. What director Olatunde Osunsanmi goes for instead is a creepy factor derived from the alleged true events that The Fourth Kind is based on. What with the interview footage, 9-1-1 calls, and dramatic reenactments, it's obvious Osunsanmi is after the Blair Witch baseline of freak-out. There isn't much more that can weird someone out than messed-up supernatural crap that might have actually happened.
Now I'm not going to reveal the truth behind the backstory. If you're dying to know, a rudimentary Wikipedia search will reveal the answer. But because it's such a massive spoiler and has a direct correlation to the effectiveness of the film, I'll give you two quick reactions, one for each possible truth:
Reaction 1: The events did indeed happen
This is a genuinely frightening experience. The interview sessions, where Dr. Tyler places her subjects under hypnosis, lead to so some jarring responses, augmented by some strategic jump scare musical cues. The eventual centerpiece of the film, the apparent abduction of a central character, adds some extra tension. Dr. Tyler then becomes intent on unraveling the mystery and the townsfolk's eerie behavior begins to make sense. Overall, while lacking the easy scares -- namely, shots of the aliens themselves -- The Fourth Kind feeds off the legitimacy of the recreated events to generate a marginally capable scarefest.
Reaction 2: The events are entirely fictional
This is a colossal waste of time.
Which one is it? If you really want to know, go search out the truth and apply the respective reaction. I will not deny you either a) a fairly good time with a rare alien abduction horror movie, or b) a laughable, pretentious disappointment.
On Blu-ray, there can be no confusion; The Fourth Kind is a technical champ, sporting a gorgeous 2.35:1 1080p high-def transfer that brings the Alaska setting to brilliant life. The downside is that the enhanced resolution detracts from the alleged authenticity of the interview tapes. Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and an active, jumpy one at that. The extras are few, however, highlighted by a ton of deleted scenes and BD-Live functionality (socialBlu community networking and the mobile pocket-Blu add-on).
The gray guys are MIA, but there may (or may not) be value here. How's that for non-committal douchebaggery?
Hung jury...for now.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* D-Box Enabled
* Cinema Verdict Review