Someone -- or something -- has been terrorizing the people of Nome, Alaska.
It has the ability to magically levitate people. Its presence is heralded by the appearance of a mysterious white owl. In its wake, it leaves a smell. Of putrid cinnamon.
Omigod. Omigod. It's . . . What? Harry Potter? Hedwig? A mug of stale butterbeer?
Oops. Wrong movie.
There are no pubescent wizards -- only aromatic extraterrestrials with a fondness for nocturnal birds of prey -- in "The Fourth Kind," an unintentionally silly thriller about alien abduction whose title is the only thing it has over the classic "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." For those who care about such things, encounters of the fourth kind are ones in which the subject's body is physically carried off, often to be probed in ways that are far too horrible to describe.
Which brings me to the first -- and biggest -- problem with the movie, written and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi with a mix of "actual" and reenacted footage of events that supposedly transpired a few years ago to a psychotherapist named Abbey (Milla Jovovich): Nothing ever really happens.
Invasion of the unwelcome body snatchers
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Nov. 6, 2009
Normally I wouldn't be complaining. Today's horror movies are, if anything, ttoo graphic, and leave too little to the imagination. "The Fourth Kind," to its credit, believes in a kind of obsessive subtlety. We never actually see the aliens. Nor do we ever see what exactly they do to their victims. Other than a couple of out-of-focus shots of machinery that look like they were filmed at Jiffy Lube.
All we ever see are the abductees' therapy sessions during which, under hypnosis, they start whimpering and thrashing about until they have broken half the furniture in her office. Then they go home and kill themselves.
How Abbey makes a living at this is the film's real mystery.
But seriously, folks, if you're going to make a scary movie, shouldn't you be able to do it without resorting to both "Blair Witch"-style found footage and movie stars? (Will Patton and Elias Koteas also show up as, respectively, an angry sheriff and a psychologist friend of Abbey's.)
It's hard to say which scenes are less scary: the reenactments, which play like "America's Most Wanted," or the "real" video clips, which always go all staticky whenever the aliens (which -- get this -- speak ancient Sumerian) appear.
At a recent preview screening, the most common audience response to this nonsense was laughter, not gasps of horror.
At area theaters. Contains violent imagery, crude language and creepy voices.