I suppose the formula is simple enough to follow and fabricate on your own. After all, we've seen at least one monster movie, and two horror flicks rake in the millions with something small, viral, and highly effective. But unless it's properly done, it can turned out quite half-baked like what The Fourth Kind is, forgetting that beneath the gimmick still lies the essence of a sensible story to make everything credible.
The view through a camera lens is beginning to turn out as the gimmick of the decade possibly, where the narrative takes the audience through witnessing what is known as "the truth", since videographic evidence cannot lie, or so it seems. Be it live action footage, or one which has the paranormal caught on camera, filmmakers also rely on the web to spread some hokey background about the origins of the film, and as such hopes to drum up pre-release buzz to put bums on seats. Needless to say this scheme works best for horror flicks, or sci-fi ones with still a touch of horror.
The Fourth Kind breaks the fourth wall in the beginning and ending, serving as the bookends to a strange tale that seemed to lack proper meat in-between. Milla Jovovich walks up to the camera and tells the audience that she plays a character called Dr Abbey Tyler, whose recorded, archived footage serves as the basis for this entire reenactment that we're going to watch, which deals with strange sightings and experiences with aliens. We're also advised to believe what we want to believe, and the finale also reminded us of the same school of thought, reinforced by writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi's own appearance to do the same.
The film then shuttles between "reel" moments, and "reel within reel" footage, voice recordings, third party cameras and so on, to tell the story of Abbey Tyler's strange experience in the early days of October 2000, where her patients in a town in Alaska begin to exhibit unorthodox behaviours during treatment. Sheriff August (Will Patton) believes it could stem from Abbey's probable professional negligence, or even a tinge of her own insanity getting the better of her, no thanks to a husband she claims was murdered in their house.
Her companions Abel (Elias Koteas) and Awolowa (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) also leaned in and supported her through their investigation into the phenomenon experienced, although when called to stand up for her, seem to do their own disappearing act. Much of the narrative then goes on to suggest that either they were on to something that's much beyond them, given their personal involvement and experience of the unpleasant, or squarely puts the entire episodes on the plea of insanity, never to be discussed again.
Knowing that the entire film is based on an imaginary, fictional premise, kudos must still go to writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi for building up the creep factor, where the hair on your back will stand on ends as the film progresses, utilizing the same old bag of tricks found in any horror movie. "Abbey Tyler" looks deranged enough for you to pity and doubt her, and Osunsanmi uses plenty of camera tricks and a variety of presentation techniques to make it look like a documentary and a horror film combined.
But as mentioned, the essence of a sensible story is key, which the film failed to deliver on that count. It tried to wriggle its way out through its setting of expectations right at the beginning, but that is just plain old smokescreen. It might have worked better should it have made a clearer stand, rather than to sit on the fence and not commit to anything other than to continuously suggest that it's real. That itself is a tell tale sign (if it's really real and that big of an issue, surely we've heard it on the news before) that it's made up, and took away some of the lustre of a classic that this could have become.
Still, it's an interesting film in how recent trends exploiting "reality" could be used to dabble in a whole array of genres.