The Fourth Kind
The best way to say it is that your skepticism will directly affect how much this film can entertain you and freak you out. You’re told up front that the story is true, and documented, and many original audio and videotapes are being incorporated into the film. You could just do some googling to find out whether there’s a shred of truth to that, and if so, how much of that truth makes it into the film.
But however you get there, let’s say you go into this movie thinking, yeah, there’s a lot of unexplained UFO phenomena, and the amount of weirdness and coincidence in this movie is freakin’ me out. You’ll like this film, you’ll be meeting it on its terms, and it may well freak you out. On the other hand, if you go in thinking, “this is all faked” or “they’re shading the truth here,” or “I want horror and/or science fiction,” you’ll be disappointed.
Writer-director (and bit player) Olatunde Osunsanmi does some interesting stuff here stylistically. The film combines grainy black-and-white documentary-style footage with very stylized, dramatically lit “re-enactments,” often split screening it, so that you see Milla Jovovich acting out the same scene captured on the documentary video, comparing her (and other cast members) to the people they’re meant to be portraying. The contrast between the very flat and ordinary world on the video and the Hollywood-ized “recreation” is very effective. Neither would work on their own, but contrasting, the two extremes blend nicely.
More dramatically contrasted is the acting. Very often, whether it’s a scene in which someone is screaming in horror or numb with shock and despair, Jovovich and her troupe are underplaying, underacting, compared to the black-and-white documentary-style footage they’re recreating. There are many points when you hope that the documentary footage is real, because if not, those colorless people are seriously overacting.
Osunsanmi definitely wants the story to feel real. While this whole “reality TV/memoir” craze that seems to feel fiction can’t move or entertain anymore is a load of horsecrap, budget-cutting and laziness, I have to say that the director’s decision not to fashion together something that feels like a straight documentary from low-quality footage, nor to claim everything is real but just shoot it with Jovovich and company, produces a strange and often effective result. This element stands in for more traditional horror shock or sci-fi thrill, though some viewers may find it an unfair trade. Of course, that same “true story” conceit lets them get away with unanswered questions, flat characters, and a general lack of what you expect in well-made fiction. Unless it doesn’t.
Bottom line: If you “want to believe,” or at least suspend disbelief, this sucker rattled a few audience members pretty well. If you want to sit there and critically analyze the film’s claims, which it invites through its documentarian claims, you’ll probably find it a slick but ultimately B-grade effort, at best.