Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #231
Number of Views: One
Release Date: November 6, 2009
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $47,709,193
Running time: 98 minutes
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Producers: Paul Brooks, Joe Carnahan
Screenplay: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Story: Olatunde Osunsanmi & Terry Lee Robbins
Special Effects: Ivo Jivkov
Visual Effects: Nikolay Gachev, Andrew Somers
Cinematography: Lorenzo Senatore
Score: Atli Örvarsson
Editing: Paul Covington
Studios: Gold Circle Films, Morgan Creek Entertainment, Dead Crow Productions
Distributors: Universal Pictures (USA), Entertainment Film Distributors (UK)
Stars: Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Corey Johnson, Enzo Cilenti, Elias Koteas, Eric Loren, Mia McKenna-Bruce, Raphaël Coleman, Daphne Alexander, Alisha Seaton, Tyne Rafaeli, Paul Stefanov, Kiera McMaster, Sara Houghton, Julian Vergov, Ioan Karamfilov, Charlotte Milchard
Suggested Audio Candy
Atli Örvarsson “Conclusion”
That E.T. fellow has a lot to answer for if you ask me. Everything was fine before he come along and waggled his luminous digit about like a pathetic prophet. Now the whole free world keeps a watchful eye on the skies, vigilant to any potential unidentified phenomena. In fact I blame Spielberg. Consider the facts, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was also his doing. There the aliens made contact with humanity and Richard Dreyfuss had to cope with the inevitable fallout. My estimations deduce that Spielberg is, in fact, an alien life-form masquerading as the most prolific film-maker of our generation. Bring back Willy from V, at least he didn’t attempt to mask his true calling.
The Fourth Kind caused all manner of ruckus upon its inauguration, most notably from the residents of Nome, Alaska who were incensed at the mocked-up ‘actual footage’ utilized and in staunch denial over any extra terrestrial occurrences that transpired. Director Olatunde Osunsanmi brings us a pseudo-documentary which fuses ‘real life events’ with dramatized translations of the events of October 2000 whereby this quiet community was torn apart by reporting of alien abductions and the like. Roger Ebert hit the nail on the head when he stated that the only ways in are by sea, air, dogsled or birth canal. Presumably that is the reason why the film was actually shot mostly in Bulgaria.
The Fourth Kind commences with Jovovich informing the addressee that she will be playing psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler, and that the events depicted in the movie are real, and corroborated with actual archive footage of the events. From there we assume the position of fly on the wall as her doctor-patient confidentiality is compromised and various hypnotherapy sessions reenacted. Abby has already been personally touched by tragedy when her husband Will died whilst sleeping under mysterious circumstances and is devoted to making headway with her subjects and thus answering her own unanswered questions.
Nigerian-born Osunsanmi chooses to splice in stock footage of testimonials, using split screen to show the actors and their ‘real-life’ counterparts relaying their experiences almost simultaneously. This approach will likely split audiences. Personally I find it a distracting technique at the best of times and, considering the film is so beautifully shot, the static-varnished case studies frustrated more than enlightened, especially given the fact that the snippets used are primarily identikit. I never cared for this method in 24 and, call me a stickler but I find split screen works best with vintage kart racing console games. Here it is unnecessary and takes you out of the experience.
Another questionable decision on Osunsanmi’s part would appear to be his casting. Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas and Will Patton are three reputable seasoned actors and all three give their customary faultless performances, particularly Jovovich who excels as Abigail and convinces both as threatened heroine and proficient but conflicted psychologist. However sometimes in a film which takes the approach used here, it is preferable to veer away from household names and unknown actors often assist in keeping you invested when hoaxing the audience. That is what made The Blair Witch Project such an anomaly, whether real or fake was immaterial as it had us questioning right up to its shattering final reel.
Anyone expectant of lambent aliens and flying saucers will be left unsatisfied as that is not the priority and this proves an astute decision on Osunsanmi’s part. Instead owls are used as a loose metaphor for our extra terrestrial tearaways and their omnipresence throughout is intriguing and unsettling in equal measures. In addition, a well-implemented levitation adds to the consternation although primarily The Fourth Kind hones in on the psychological impact of these ominous occurrences and the manifestation of terror which stems from the numerous hypnotherapy attempts.
Universal Pictures went to great lengths to solidify their claims that everything depicted in the film is based on real-life occupancy, building a website dedicated to housing bogus news articles and fake obituaries to further sell their ruse. With Jovovich introducing the film as Jovovich in a typically melodramatic manner it overcompensates and thus Osunsanmi leaves himself a mountain to climb living up to such bold claims. Whether you find it scary depends on how quickly you can defer this opener and take it as it really is, an extended episode of X-Files.
The Fourth Kind is still something of a mystery to me. It features opulent cinematography by Lorenzo Senatore, particularly in showing Nome’s fictional wide open expanses through all manner of eye-catching aerial shots and the score by Atli Örvarsson suits hand-in-glove, heightening the menace considerably. In addition, assured performances from the leads bolster the experience infinitely. If you enter expecting to be chilled to your core then you’ll invariably come away disappointed. That’s not to say that it isn’t a competent piece of science fiction hokum, just not the slice you may have been expecting.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Dread Factor: 3/5
For the Dread Heads: M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs gave me the greater willies. The build-up is present and correct but the pay-off leaves much to be desired. Having said such, it does leave you pensive and the real demons exist in the mind after all. Case in point, towards the latter stages I peeked at the clock. It was 3.19 am and The Fourth Kind was racing towards its conclusion. The events of the film play out like clockwork at 3.33 am. By the time the closing credits bled out I had another cursory glance and it was 3.34 am. One minute out, darn it that would have made an excellent closing statement. Then I pondered for a moment and the fact that I have no recollection of 3.33 am and woke from my catharsis the very next minute placed a very slight chill down my spine.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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