Friday, November 6, 2009

Looking for Scares? Keep Looking. THE FOURTH KIND

The Fourth Kind is two movies, a dumb low-budget horror and its even dumber big-budget remake, fighting with each other. Who wins? I couldn't say, but I do know that it certainly isn’t the audience. This is a howlingly bad horror movie with only two or three scares and those are of the cheap loud-noise variety. The hook is that this movie about alien abductions is peppered with “real” footage and interviews that literally push the glossy picture out of the frame with wobbly split-screens showing the stark contrast between the videotaped “reality” and Hollywood reenactments. Pardon my quotation marks; this is the kind of movie that wants so much to be taken seriously, to make us feel like it couldn’t all be false, that quotation marks are the only proper deflation. I’m fighting silly with sillier.

Milla Jovovich is the lead in the reenactment, as Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist in Nome, Alaska who’s just plain crazy over this whole alien thing. The woman who plays the “real” Dr. Tyler is listed in the credits only as Dr. Tyler which is a shame because she’s giving a better performance. The movie tries to force verisimilitude with little title cards that pop up with the first appearance of a character in the reenacted portions of the film. For example there’s “Elias Koteas, actor” playing a skeptical colleague of Dr. Tyler. A little later we meet “Will Patton, actor” playing Sheriff August, who flips out over the real-world tragedies occurring in his town, including the one nearly effective scene, if you can sift through the kaleidoscope of fake and faker footage shoved on screen, which documents a very real terror of a murder-suicide.

Unfortunately, having the fake and faker footage bounce off of each other constantly makes each look goofier as the movie goes on. If this were meant to be a parody of the stone-faced alien-conspiracy documentaries that the History Channel shows on Saturday afternoons in October, then writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi is on to something because, after a while, the preview crowd I saw it with sure hooted and howled with each ridiculous turn in the plot. There’s a moment where scary music works overtime while the camera spins around an owl that turns its head to never break eye contact with the audience. It brought the house down. As for me, I got the biggest kicks out of watching Will Patton’s wonderful self-parodying – oh, who am I kidding? It’s terrible – performance as a gruff, no nonsense small-town cop who don’t believe in these gosh-dern alien thangs. He’s a hoot, and so is the movie, when it’s not being frustratingly selfish in its pursuit of Paranormal Activity realism and Drag Me to Hell gloss at the same time. The filmmakers had their cake, ate it too, and then spat it up on the screen.


BOO!

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