The first line in The Fourth Kind has Milla Jovovich calling herself an “actress,” so we know right away the film is lying. OK, calling herself an actress may not quite be lying, but it’s certainly either hyperbole or wishful thinking—something Ms. Jovovich proceeds to prove for the next 96 minutes in her portrayal of Dr. Abigail Tyler, an Alaskan psychologist. The story claims that Tyler, along with a number of her patients, has been playing guinea pig to a bunch of space aliens who appear to them in the guise of white owls—one of which has seemingly stabbed (or perhaps pecked) Tyler’s husband to death.
Director/writer Olatunde Osunsanmi’s premise is that his film is a blend of archival footage involving the “real” Abigail Tyler and her patients, interviews with Tyler (conducted by the director himself) and Hollywoodified dramatic recreations of the events depicted. To this end, the players have on-screen titles identifying them as actors and their “real-life” counterparts—save for Tyler—have on-screen names with “(alias)” after them. Personally, I think the actors would have been better advised to adopt aliases themselves—and heavy character makeup. A good alibi for their whereabouts while this thing was being made wouldn’t have hurt either.
Part of the problem with all this is that there is no evidence that Tyler exists. There is no record of such a person being licensed as a psychologist (or anything else) in the state of Alaska. In short, Mr. Osunsanmi is peddling a load of clams—made of whole cloth and utterly bogus “archival footage.” I wouldn’t mind this so much except for the fact that this means I’ll spend years listening to Art Bell fans claim that this nonsense “really happened.” What I do mind is that his clams smell like oysters harvested in a month that hasn’t an “r” in it—and left in the sun for rather a long time. Even had the story been true, this would still be dull, witlessly hysterical rubbish—occasionally enlivened by unintentional mirth.
The story line is foolish beyond words. The death of her husband has left dear Abby shell-shocked and her daughter (Mia McKenna-Bruce) psychosomatically (I guess) blind. Rather than teach the kid to play pinball, Tyler focuses her energies on continuing her practice, which seems to consist entirely of patients with some kind of connected insomnia that involves a white owl staring at them through the window. It occurs to no one to invest in curtains or blinds—nor that the owl might just be advertising cigars. The “inspiration” here is that if you throw a close-up of a white owl out of focus and squint your eyes just so, it bears some resemblance to the popular notion of a gray alien. Then again, we never actually see one of these aliens because they like to bitch-up video signals so that they look like bad UHF reception, so who knows? Maybe they look like guys in owl suits.
There’s a lot of senseless palaver about ancient Sumerians and hieroglyphics that supposedly look like astronauts and rockets (actually the rockets look like squids or personal vibrators), and none of this addresses the central question of why the aliens are doing any of this. Seriously, if this has been going on for thousands of years, can they possibly expect to learn anything new by playing proctologist on sleeping specimens at this late date? Perhaps they merely have a twisted sense of humor.
Osunsanmi attempts to dress all this up with more split-screen work in this one film than is in the collected works of Brian De Palma. The idea is to show the “real” footage side-by-side with its recreated brethren, but the results are merely annoying—only serving to illustrate that Jovovich bears not the least resemblance to the woman she’s supposedly portraying. I think my partner-in-reviewing Justin Souther said it best when he remarked, “This makes me wish I were watching Signs.” That’s cold, yes, but remarkably to the point. Rated PG-13 for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality.