The Fourth Kind - Is it any good?
Updated: Jul 20, 2019
It's been a decade now since we could look at an owl outside and not question it's motives - was that a hoot or ancient Sumerian? If it hadn't been for Harry Potter ,perhaps the owl would have a much worse reputation than it currently enjoys, courtesy in no small part to The Fourth Kind (2009).
The pseudo-documentary is all about aliens visiting a small town called Nome , Alaska. The isolated place, only reachable by planes is clearly on some kind of Alien must-visit guide, because lots of locals report having strange episodes in the night, where they'll wake up and see and owl by their window - a sure sign that an alien has come calling.
Milla Jovovich plays Abigail Tyler, the town's psychiatrist, who finds out that many residents are reporting the same story to her, before experiencing it for herself.
When I first saw The Fourth Kind, I was interested by just how quirky it was. It set out with ambitious targets, and on a basis that was always going to be difficult to fulfill. As the film reaches it's 10th Birthday, I wanted to tell you why you should probably watch it if you haven't already, as well as it's good and bad points.
That Pseudo-doc feeling.
I imagine when audiences sat in the cinema at the very first screening of James Whales' Frankenstein in 1931,were somewhat surprised when the fourth wall was broken, and a narrator stepped out from a curtain to warn them that what they were about to see may terrify them. From todays standards of course, Whales' Frankenstein isn't scary in the slightest, but in presenting a narrator, it seems less like a warning than a challenge.
I don't want to assume that there is any direct link between the two, but The Fourth Kind begins with an introduction by the leading actor, Jovovic, warning us about just how terrifying this film will be - but also introducing us to the rules of play. The pitcher is out, this film contains real footage dear reader. Remember that, real footage. Never mind that the film is labelled as a pseudo-documentary, I mean we've just been told that it has real footage, there's no way an actor, who is no way paid to pretend anything whatsoever could possibly lie.
If you watched this film, fervently believing this to be the case, you can see why this film could be rather terrifying. There are so many scenes of screaming in ancient languages, levitation and what not, that if you could suspend your disbelief quite so far, then you may not be too comfortable sleeping at night anymore.
As is obviously the case, the footage we see is in fact not real at all, but another selection of actors playing the same roles with worse lighting and camera angles. I suppose that the film is essentially a found-footage horror film, except with another layer of acting on top. It's fun to see how this is used throughout, and in which sections the filmmakers decided to employ the 'real footage' for that extra bit of oomph.
Alien science and history
When the alien invasion finally happens, we'll be forced to know all this stuff by heart, or face a lengthy spell in the probing chamber, but for now i'll forgive your lack of knowledge on some of the apparent histories of aliens on Earth. The film itself provides a bit of a whistle stop tour, but the gist of it is that aliens taught ancient people to speak Sumerian, and were depicted in their carvings. As such, when the aliens come back, they speak Sumerian to everyone, but get blanked because it's a long-dead language. Perhaps that's why they're angry all the time…
In a film attempting to come across as real, using some of the background of supposed alien history is probably one of the most useful things you can do. People can google all the stuff in the film, and see what Ufologists have to say about it. Valley of the Sasquatch did something very similar, that there was no pretense in that film that the film contained any real footage. It's a good way to add a few points to your film for 'realism', if we can call alien stuff that, though, so bravo team.
Not seeing sometimes makes the best horror
We all know the story about why Bruce the shark was seen so scarcely in Jaws, a film in which he is the main antagonist. Unhappy with the way the beast looked up close, it was chosen only feature small parts of him to best create tension. I've barked on so many times about how this is a great strength to a low budget horror, and the $10 million Fourth Kind, certainly follows this rule. We never see an alien, just owls, hear their voices and see their agency on the people of Nome - or Gnomes as I lovingly want to call the denizens. In seeing them, we have to question the omnipotence of their power, and wonder just how far their reach extends, what their powers really are, and what their end game plan is. I'm glad they didn't splash out another few million on trying to make the aliens look good - 2002's Signs had already done quite a job at that, considering technology available at the time.
To this day, one of my siblings is terrified of owls, largely because of this film. It's a shame in a way, they're such interesting and unique creatures, that you wish everyone could enjoy them. But perhaps it's no wonder that they were chosen to be the figure of aliens in this film. Firstly, it once again taps into that 'realism' that I was talking about before; there have been many who have drawn links between owls an aliens. Owls also look rather other worldly. Their large, black eyes, small beaks, and broad wingspans could possibly be the reason for many historical alien sightings, notably Mothman.
What did you make of The Fourth Kind? Did you like the style of it, or were you annoyed with the way "real footage" was used? Let me know!
You can buy a copy of The Fourth Kind from Amazon on the affiiate link below, which helps out the blog!