The Fourth Kind (2009)

The Fourth Kind is a prime example of the two most pernicious trends currently plaguing the film industry: it purports to be based on a true story, and it's being marketed as a real film when, in reality, it's a cheap, lazy, studenty pile of wank.

The movie opens with Milla Jovovich introducing herself as actress Milla Jovovich, and explaining that the film we're about to watch is based on real people and real events. In fact, she tells us, the filmmakers are so keen to emphasise that this is based on things that actually happened to people that actually exist that every scene in the movie can be backed up by archive footage or audio, or came from interviews with the people involved, and real footage and audio recordings have been threaded through the movie.

Milla's speech is cut off as she repeatedly interrupts herself, and even during this brief introduction, one of the biggest problems with the movie becomes apparent. The editing is appallingly amateurish. Beyond amateurish, actually; it feels like an exercise in learning to use Final Cut. Throughout the film, the supposedly real archive footage is sandwiched alongside the acknowledged recreations starring Jovovich, often using split screen techniques to underline just how rooted in fact the movie is. The film is rendered unwatchable as a result, particularly as the filmmakers insist on moving the line between the two different scenes. It's impossible to watch both versions of the same scene at once, and the dancing black line down the middle of the screen inevitably becomes the focus of your attention instead. In one particularly awful sequence, there are four different images on the screen at once, as two different perspectives of the same scene in both the "archive" footage and the "dramatised" footage play out at once. The thick black dividing lines move constantly throughout this scene, robbing every single version of the event of its impact and watchability. Instead of being moved by the tragic events unfolding onscreen, I felt a vague sense of motion sickness and an urgent need for the film to be over.

The thing is, instead of emphasising the truth of the story, what this bizarre conceit actually does is re-enforce the sense of falsehood, and prevent any suspension of disbelief. Milla Jovovich, despite the list of terrible films on her IMDB profile, is actually a pretty good actress, but when she's reading her lines at the same time as another actress who is supposedly the real version of the same character, you can't invest in her performance. She's right there on screen telling you that she's acting, and no matter how convincingly she cries or screams or begs or argues, the film won't allow you to forget for a moment that she's playing a character. The Fourth Kind is only 98 minutes long, and every single one of them outstays its welcome.

The worst part of all this is that The Fourth Kind actually has a pretty terrifying premise. Alien abduction is a great subject for a horror movie - how scary would it be if there were creatures out there who were so technologically advanced that they could run experiments on us without us ever even knowing they were here - and the owl/alien grey imagery in the trailer (noticeably absent from the film itself) looked promisingly frightening, and original. Unfortunately, the film totally failed to deliver on all fronts: it's dull and pretentious and, ultimately, insultingly stupid.

As is so often the case in horror movies with clever concepts, The Fourth Kind falls down particularly hard when it comes to dealing with the human drama aspects of the story. No-one in The Fourth Kind behaves like a real person would; the worst offender is probably the policeman who is, for no apparent reason, desperate to arrest Jovovich's character for murders it's overwhelmingly obvious she did not and could not have committed; who speaks in bizarrely stilted cliches and nonsenses; and who randomly takes it upon himself to smash her furniture and then confront her with photographs of her dead husband while she's lying paralysed in a hospital bed. It's gibberish.

I don't have any evidence to support this theory, but I suspect The Fourth Kind's fake documentary footage was originally a student production - a straightforward fake documentary about alien abduction. And then someone somewhere along the line suggested it'd sell if only they had a star involved, and so they hired Milla Jovovich for a week to bash together the "dramatised" sequences. It certainly doesn't feel like much more time or effort went into it than that, based on the awkward acting and abysmal editing.

The Fourth Kind is not a real movie. What it is, is a total waste of your time and money. Fuck this film. If the movie industry is in trouble, as it keeps telling us that it is, it's because it insists on peddling this kind of crap to unsuspecting cinemagoers.

IMDB link