Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Fourth Kind

Depending On The Fourth Kindness of Strangers

The Fourth Kind 2009 USA/UK
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Entertainment In Video Region 2

Okay, here’s the lowdown for all you spoiler junkies.

For starters, there’s nothing really I could possibly spoil, by the very nature of the subject matter of this movie, that the title hasn’t already given away. Seriously, if you don’t know what Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind are (even though I’ll recap it later on for “extra” clarification) then don’t read this review before you see the movie.

Secondly, and perhaps unfortunately, this is where people who don’t know me very well (or, you know, at all) get to realise what a fruit loop I really am about certain subjects which I have a passionate interest in. Whereas people who do know me will probably just tut at me and point.

Okay, so I took another look at this one the other night and I actually thought I’d reviewed this film when I first started up this blog but I couldn’t find it on here so I did a quick check of the dates and realised I’d actually seen it in cinemas waaay back in those halcyon days of... um... 2009. So I didn’t review it and so here I am... being probably one of the few people, I would imagine, who actually quite liked this movie.

Now then, if you don’t know already but you’re still here reading this, a close encounter of the fourth kind is the term for... after sighting (1), physical evidence (2) and contact (3)... alien abduction and other up close and personal altercations with an extra terrestrial species that go above and beyond the definition of contact. Now most people would probably laugh at the concept of alien abduction, or at least raise an eyebrow ironically in the general direction of the person bringing the topic up. Heck, most people would do the same if you just mention a UFO... but I have been deeply interested in UFOs since I was a kid and then in later life when, I remember, about 15 years ago I watched a movie adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s self proclaimed true experiences with alien abduction (called Communion). This movie scared me sufficiently to make me read the book and from then on I was hooked. I remembered reading a news report from years before that saying, something along the lines of, “dear old dodgy horror novelist turned fruit loop Whitley Strieber has spent a small fortune securing his home from other wordly intruders again” and this added a certain credibility to the account I was reading because, whether these things had happened to Mr. Strieber or not, it was quite apparent that he obviously believed there was something horrendous going on his life. So I read the book and... it was quite chilling.

But that wasn’t enough because I needed to find out why someone who may, or may not, have had these encounters could be so sincere... so I started reading a lot more books on the subjects (by credible people such as world-renowned psychologists, psychiatrists and government hired debunkers who couldn’t quite bring themselves to unequivocally debunk) and, to my absolute horror (and it really was my absolute horror), I began to realise that the overwhelming evidence (yes, recorded and found evidence which is just routinely ignored or sometimes even stolen) points squarely at the fact that there is something both highly unusual (if not extra terrestrial) and worthy of serious concern going on in the world.

After a few years (and one short story I wrote) later, I had to stop reading this stuff. Things were too damning and frustrating and, frankly, I was losing most nights of sleep because of the nature of this particular subject and its relationship with the “night terrors” phenomenon. I was going loopy and I was running scared ... well okay, for me it was perhaps modestly ambling scared! Either way... I started actively trying not to think about this stuff when I went to bed at night and hoped that would be an end to it.

Still, every now and then an itch needs to be scratched and when I saw the trailer for this movie... I knew I would be straight around my local cinema to see it when it hit the screens.

So okay. That’s why this kind of movie is something which is always going to grab my attention and finger pointing and laughter, while not welcome, would be generally preferred to the option that I be reminded that I, quite against my will or desire, genuinely believe in this stuff.

So what’s the movie like?

Well it’s a horror movie, of a sort, no two ways about it. It starts off with the lead actress talking to the camera as herself and explaining who she is portraying in this movie and that actual footage of the people involved in these events in real life will be intercut into the movie alongside the actors. This is great and gives a brilliant sense of truth to the terror as you go through the movie, which is both shot remarkably well and edited with a certain dynamism to various split screen shots which is so “right on” that you might not even notice how powerful the editing is until you get to a second viewing. Seriously, the added “footage” lends the movie an almost “Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity” sensibility and at the moment these kinds of movies are still very effective with the general public at large.

However, there’s a downside to this movie... two downsides in fact.

One is I’m pretty sure the degraded in quality “real footage” is actually not “real” footage at all, just shot with a different bunch of actors to give the movie a sense of authenticity. Secondly, there’s only so far you can take an alien abduction story before you get to a point where the audience’s suspension of belief isn’t stretched to breaking point. So some may feel this movie is a tad anti-climactic but... personally I didn’t have a problem with it.

Ok... so there’s two things right there that’s wrong with the movie. Not actually a true story as claimed on the tin and with a bit of a weak third act (although still pretty terrifying for the likes of me, when I’m this close to the subject matter). That being said, however, it’s got a heck of a lot going for it.

Standout performances by great actors such as Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas and Will Patton are matched, if not blown out of the water, by the cast of unknowns playing the “real” (or pseudo-real) versions of the people. I’ve already mentioned how great the editing and photography are but the music score also serves its purpose fairly well and as for the research that went into the scripting...! All I can say is that if this specific event isn’t a true story... it damn well ought to be. The writers have managed to encapsulate and include many of the main common elements of modern “abduction lore” and presented it in a way that truly shows how terrifying the recollection of these experiences can be. And if you don’t know what I mean by common traits, let me ask you this... how does an “abductee” from Western civilisation and an “abductee” from a native tribe completely untouched by fellow man and free from any experience of any form of media or civilisation describe exactly the same events, sequences and antagonists as each other? This stuff gets kinda scary the more little Russian Dolls you open on the subject... and the filmmakers have really done a good job at weaving a dramatic tale out of these common threads and themes and turning them into a scary movie... even if it is a scary movie which was pretty poorly received at the box office.

So ultimately on this one, I don’t have an unbiased opinion. I would have to warn cynics of this kind of material to approach with caution... but I would recommend you do approach at some point if you’re into low budget, psychologically suggestive sci-fi horror movies. But, if you are an impressionable soul, it’s probably remiss of me if I don’t warn you that if you start reading into the subject and doing all the research like I did... you might not sleep so easy in the future.

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