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MOVIE REVIEW

'The Fourth Kind'

They try to get 'real' about strange occurrences. Instead they get ludicrous.

November 06, 2009|Robert Abele

The vogue for verite spooks continues with "The Fourth Kind," but unlike the understated stylistic rigor of the first-person-fashioned "Paranormal Activity," this alien abduction showpiece about unexplained events in Nome, Alaska, doth protest its bona fides too much.

Presented as a cinematic re-creation of traumatic, mysterious occurrences -- suicides, stalking owls, demonic-sounding recordings -- surrounding sleep-deprived patients of psychologist Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich), writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi attempts an Orson Welles-like confluence of "real" and imagined that might have worked had he gotten out of the way more, literally and figuratively. As in, there's ludicrous video footage of a solemn Osunsanmi interviewing a gaunt, horror-stricken Tyler, as well as overwrought dramatizations featuring Tyler, a friendly, doubting colleague (Elias Koteas) and an all-skeptical sheriff (Will Patton).

The irony is that the "documentary" moments of patients videotaped under hypnosis -- often regrettably placed side by side with their reenactments -- contain the only genuine shocks, whereas the "directed" scenes traffic in telegraphed scoring, excessive photographic effects and laughable histrionics. Trying to freak out an audience with a new twist on UFO sightings is admirable, but after the umpteenth time the words "Actual Audio" appear on-screen, one's patience for suspending disbelief in "The Fourth Kind" comes crashing to Earth.

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'The Fourth Kind'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality

Running time: 1 hour,

38 minutes

Playing: In general release

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