10 years ago, a science fiction horror/thriller purported itself to be based on “real” events and tried very hard to change the cinematic landscape. Upon release however, it was met with immense criticism for its poor filmmaking choices, along with its perceived insensitivity to real life disappearances in Alaska.
Then, just as quickly, The Fourth Kind passed into cinematic obscurity. So, as this film turns 10 years old, we wanted to take one more look at it, with the advantage of hindsight and answer the all-important question: is it as bad as we all remember?
Was Anyone Actually Fooled?
Way back before the film was even released, its trailers went really out of their way to make audiences think that this was all “real”. Right away, it opened with Milla Jovovich introducing herself and explaining that she was playing a role and that this was all a dramatization. In a way, it felt more like a paranormal TV special than a Hollywood film.
The film constantly reminded us that it was all true, by cutting away to the “archival” footage, even showing it side by side. One must wonder if it would have worked better simply by purporting to be a documentary the whole time, or solely using the “dramatizations”, and telling audiences it was based on real events. It seems like the blending of both is what irritated audiences most.
That, and the fact that the film attributes the many disappearances in Alaska (based on real statistics) to alien abduction. When in reality, Alaska has so may disappearances due to a combination of brutal winter weather, and higher rates than normal of depression and alcoholism.
Aside from its title being incredibly (albeit admittedly) derivative from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, there were many legitimate issues with the film itself. It sets up certain things like the owl connection, and the Ancient Sumerian background, but it never really follows up on either of them.
The closest we get a climax is the alien “possession” scene of Dr. Tyler. Then it just sort of ends with the director and Milla Jovovich talking directly to the camera, telling the audience that what we believe is our choice.
Did We Miss the Point?
There’s no denying that The Fourth Kind is a bad film. Jovovich gives a decent performance, but the way the film itself is strung together leaves a great deal to be wanted. But what if all along, it was intentionally supposed to be a bad film? What if it’s final line, “In the end, what you believe is yours to decide” is more critical and even satirical than we ever realized?
The entire film feels like a fake documentary trying to be a Hollywood film, while also being a Hollywood film trying to capture the Blair Witch “realism”. It obviously fails at both, so what if it was always trying to critique both, to make a comment on the growing found footage boom of the 2000’s, and point out how ridiculous horror cinema had become?
Admittedly, it’s quite a stretch to try and make these claims, but if a film like The Room can be unintentionally hiliarious, why can’t The Fourth Kind be unintentionally satirical. Even if the filmmakers meant to it to be taken seriously, re-watching the film with this perspective makes it much more entertaining. And if there’s any way to make a terrible film easier to watch, why not try it?!