(2009) dir. Olatunde Osunsanmi
What you are about to read IS real about a movie that purports to be comprised of fact and fiction but which is really made up of varying levels of fiction. Why does that matter? From The Blair Witch Project (1999) through Paranormal Activity (2007), and certainly before, a small group of movies has made their efforts to make their movie look like it was real found footage, documentary stuff. And back to Fargo (1996), and again probably far beyond that, there have been film’s that have teasingly stated that they had basis in fact while no facts really existed. So, it’s normal, yes?
The Fourth Kind is a sci-fi film of low birth, starring the almost always terrible Milla Jovovich as a psychiatrist living in Nome, Alaska, where a number of her patients are having the same recurring nightmares about owls outside their windows and who, when under hypnosis are pushed to try to remember their “dreams”, go into hyper-panicked shock and die or kill people. Jovovich’s own husband supposedly succumbed to something akin to this.
And for the film, which opens with Jovovich announcing herself as an actress playing the role of a real-life person, whose validity is supposedly backed-up with footage from the real events as they were filmed, we have another weird hybrid of a film. While the film doesn’t try to pretend that the whole of itself is documentary (which is the more common style), it does lots of split-screen demonstrations of the actors playing against the grainy footage of the real people.
Now, maybe you’ll say that I should have known better, but I didn’t do my research prior but after the film, so I kept wondering to myself, “well, if the stuff is this compelling, why make a fictional re-enactment at all? why not just make a documentary about the thing?” Because, really, the point of the more obvious fictional Jovovich version of narrative is weak anyways and while it’s potentially compelling to compare shot for shot with video events of reality, it still begs the question of why would anyone do that?
Writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi perhaps thought that this approach was novel enough to make the story seem even more valid, since the other “found footage” films are their own kind of tired cliche these days. Even mockumentaries are a tired cliche, though more from the comedic side of the fence, rather than the horror side of the fence, so to speak.
The film is pretty atrocious. The film’s only hope for “power” is its potential connection to verity, and when that fact is washed away, there is really not much left. Maybe this is one of those cases where it would be better to not over-analyze films, not to question their natures, their verity, and to just innocently go into the experience just hoping for a good scare.
But for better or for worse, I’m not that film-goer. And even if I didn’t bother validating the reality of the supposed “true story” until after the film, I was not in the least surprised to find that it was all made up haphazardly. Perhaps this is one of those cases where truth could be at least stronger than fiction, if not stranger. And if true.