First thing’s first. While it purports to be based on real events, complete with lead actor Milla Jovovich addressing the camera as the film opens and proclaiming that what we are about to see is a series of re-enactments of actual, documented events and archival footage, The Fourth Kind is a work of fiction. The English-language film from debuting director Olatunde Osunsanmi works a benign grift that’s familiar to anyone who has seen The Blair Witch Project or even Fargo, slyly building up the real world bona fides of its story for narrative and artistic purposes.
You would think that audiences would not be fooled, given that The Fourth Kind deals with the topic of alien abduction. (Like Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the title comes from J. Allen Hynek’s system of classification.)
Jovovich plays psychologist Abigail Tyler, a resident of remote Nome, Alaska, who begins to suspect she’s onto something big and frightening when a number of her patients report visions of owls while under hypnosis. As she digs deeper into the mystery with the help of fellow shrink Abel Campos (Elias Koteas) and earns the scorn of the local Sheriff, August Thompson (Will Patton), it becomes increasingly clear that a spate of disappearances and other inexplicable phenomena might be due to a rash of alien abductions – the fourth kind of close encounter.
Which is nonsense, right? Aliens don’t come down and snatch up unsuspecting humans to take them on a tour of the cosmos or probe their recta. Except that abduction stories are centuries old. The phenomenon used to get attributed to faerie folk or whatever the local equivalent is, but the rise of square-jawed 20th century science and the possibility of life on other planets has seen the blame shift to little green men. Or little grey men. Or reptoids or golden-haired Aryan aliens, or whatever the current extra-terrestrial (or ultra-terrestrial) flavour of the month happens to be. The set dressing changes but the stories remain the same, and we tell these stories through film and TV these days.