by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
Paranormal Underground Magazine
Q: When is a “true story” not a true story?
A: When Hollywood tells you it is.
It’s shocking really – how blatant the lie is. The movie opens with actress Milla Janovich walking right up to the screen as herself and telling you that all of the archival footage you are about to see is true. Isn’t the number one rule of acting to never break character? And yet, in this bizarre beginning to a movie, Janovich does it at the very start – and then again at the end.
What follows is wholly unbelievable – and often annoying – “archival” footage interspersed with dramatizations about a sleep study gone awry. What the movie would have you believe is that Dr. Abigail Tyler is real. What the performance of the uncredited actress who plays the “real” Abigail Tyler would tell you is that if she is, they should have hired a better uncredited actress to play her.
A little about the story. Dr. Abby Tyler is struggling to hold it together after the apparent murder of her husband in a brutal stabbing death that Tyler herself witnesses. The two live in Nome, Alaska with their two children, and are conducting a sleep study for an unspecified government organization when Will Tyler is murdered. Determined to continue with their joint research, Tyler soldiers on, placing patients under hypnosis to discover why they report seeing an owl in association with their lack of sleep. As she probes further, Tyler comes to believe that what all of her patients have in common is alien abduction.
I could explain more, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for those who are interested in going to see this train wreck of a movie. I’ll admit it – I was intrigued and hoping to be at least a little scared. I wasn’t. Well not totally true – I jumped once.
Perhaps it was the blatant lie at the beginning, followed by “real archival footage” that was so bad it was obviously patently false that set me off of my game from the start. Perhaps it was the fact that I’d had a kidney stone the night before and just wasn’t feeling well. Maybe I was cranky. But the fact remains – I really wanted to like this movie. I love fictional stories. I don’t expect them to be true. Once a story claims to be true and then the lie has been exposed, however, I tend to not have a lot of respect for the finished product. It’s why I never read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. Because he claimed it was true and it turned out he fabricated it. It actually might have been a pretty good novel (I have no idea if it was – but I heard good things) – so why not just present it as such?
That’s the same way I feel about The Fourth Kind. The story in and of itself is actually pretty interesting. It has an ending that certainly leaves you open to speculating about what really happened. If only they hadn’t claimed it was all true and filmed it “documentary style” with alternating “archival footage” and dramatizations. I can’t get past that single, off-putting fact.
We’ve come to the part of the movie review where I drag my soap box and jump on it with my bullhorn. No wonder so many people believe that those interested in paranormal topics like alien abduction, ghosts and conspiracies are nut jobs. Because there are so many out there presenting a paranormal story as “truth” when it so obviously isn’t. That always helps further genuine research and open-mindedness.
How do I know it isn’t true? Here’s a great article in the Anchorage Daily News looking into the veracity of the claims made by The Fourth Kind. But even without this – and many similar articles, it’s quite obvious. One only has to watch the footage to realize. Add to that the film’s red herring – a little fiction woven throughout the movie that I won’t reveal so that I don’t spoil the surprise – and it all just left me sort of uninterested. If I could sum it up in one word, I would say the movie was “Meh.”
Would I have liked the movie minus the archival footage and claims of truth? Maybe. It would have been a totally different movie at that point. Unfortunately, I can’t say for sure because that is not the movie I saw. In the end, I’m not quite to the point of “that is two hours of my life I’ll never get back,” but almost. If you want to see a true story, don’t go. If you find whiny, wooden delivery annoying, don’t go. If, however, you can set aside all of that and focus on a paranormal story of alien abduction, then it just might be worth a shot.
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