Town's alien visit mildly scary

Posted: November 06, 2009

'There's something going on in this town that we don't know about."

"They're not from here."

"Do you honestly believe that you were forcibly removed from your bedroom by a member of an alien race?"

And there you have the drift of The Fourth Kind.

Trading on the same ersatz documentary chicanery as Paranormal Activity, but adding thespian reenactments to run side by side (literally) with the supposedly authentic archival video and audio tapes, The Fourth Kind is a mildly scary, totally meaningless excursion into the realms of psychological horror and alien-abduction conspiracies.

Milla Jovovich, more restrained than we're accustomed to seeing the Resident Evil action star, plays Dr. Abigail Tyler, an Alaskan therapist who pilots her own plane and who's still grappling with the traumatic loss of her husband. His death, in the couple's bed, an apparent homicide, has left Abby and her young son and daughter understandably shaken.

Not so understandably shaken are a parade of Nome residents (Nomers?) who come through Abby's door speaking of sleepless nights, dark, murderous moods and, yes, a white owl that keeps hooting outside their window in the wee hours of the morn. The patients' mysterious stories are remarkably similar, and when Abby decides to hypnotize her clients and videotape their trance-induced recollections, things get spooky.

There's lots of screaming on the doctor's couch, table lamps go crashing, and there's even a bit of levitation. What to make of it all?

The increasingly distressed Abby calls in her colleague, Dr. Abel Campos (Elias Koteas), to observe and offer counsel, but when Abby witnesses some unexplainable events and starts to believe there really might be serial UFO abductions going on - the titular fourth, and most unpleasant kind of extraterrestrial interaction - Campos and Nome's sheriff (Will Patton) start looking at her sidewise. Even her son thinks she's acting kind of odd.

Shuffling a veritable deck of split screens to contrast the "real" patients (and "real" Dr. Tyler) on the videos with the actors playing them in the "movie," The Fourth Kind uses thumping, crunching sound effects to add to the eeriness. But nothing lives up to the warning at the picture's outset: "Please be advised that some of what you are about to see is extremely disturbing."

Not really.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea

at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com.

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