WHO IS THE MOVIE MASOCHIST?
The Movie Masochist is an emotionally wounded cinephile who lives in the United States. He watches bad movies so you don't have to. Look for his musings starting today and each Friday in Weekend.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WORST KIND
The aliens are here, and they're jerks.
"The Fourth Kind," a thriller that mixes drama with "real" footage, wants to scare you with that notion.
The movie posits that creatures possessing vast intelligence - and technology beyond anything known to humankind - have traveled thousands, maybe millions, of light years across space just to screw with people. If you had the power to travel virtually anywhere at will, naturally you'd want to hightail it across the cosmos just to jam a long needle into some hairless ape's spine, or some other unmentionable place.
The term "fourth kind" in the title refers to abduction by aliens. Those who believe aliens have visited Earth break down extraterrestrial contact into categories. The first kind is the sighting of a UFO; the second is a sighting plus observable physical effects (radiation exposure, malfunctioning machines, etc.); the third involves seeing alien creatures outside the spacecraft. If you believe survivor testimony, the fourth kind means the sort of close contact comparable to a colonoscopy.
Milla Jovovich plays Dr. Abigail Tyler, or rather the "fictional" Dr. Abigail Tyler. To give the movie an air of authenticity, dramatic scenes are interspersed with so-called actual footage of the "real" Tyler and her patients, all of whom claim aliens abducted them.
Jovovich appears as herself in the film's prologue to tell the audience that the video footage is authentic and "disturbing." Yes, the video is authentic in that it was shot with a video camera and the footage, when unspooled, can actually be measured in feet.
The people seen in the video segments are uncredited performers. The "real" Tyler is an actress who rather unkindly has been made up to look like Olive Oyl pulled from cold storage a day or so after dying from a crystal meth overdose. Her spoken account of alien contact feels far more vivid than the scenes performed by Jovovich and other recognizable actors, making the juxtaposition feel like a major creative mistake.
Horror films such as "The Blair Witch Project" and the recent "Paranormal Activity" used fake footage and documentary techniques to encourage viewers to suspend disbelief. Neither film claimed to be based on a true story; in fact, most viewers knew ahead of time the assertions made within the film were a naughty storytelling gimmick.
The ad campaign for "The Fourth Kind" asserts in every poster and commercial that the film is based on real events. In the movie itself, the words "actual audio" or "actual video" often appear on screen, ostensibly to increase the tension. Stupidly, the supposed real names of the people shown on video are omitted, yet their faces are clearly shown. So much for privacy, even for the fictional.
Speaking of privacy, if the fourth kind is alien abduction and whatever violations that entails, what happens during other types of contact?
The Ninth Kind: Aliens abduct and tell you far more than you want to know about their personal lives and, worse, their sexual partners.
The Eleventh Kind: The aliens hire you as a temp, then lay you off right before Christmas.
The Thirteenth Kind: Your diary is read by aliens, who laugh at the mawkish prose style and constant self-pity you display in committing your most personal thoughts to paper.
The Twentieth Kind: The aliens have coffee with your mom and tell everyone the embarrassing stories they heard about your childhood.
The Twenty-Seventh Kind: Aliens abduct you and force you to appear in "Saw" films.
The Twenty-Eighth Kind: Aliens abduct you and force you to watch "Saw" films.
Rated PG-13 for blurring the line between real, fake-real and fake-fake. Two stars. Horrible.
The rating system:
1 star: Lousy
2 stars: Horrible
3 stars: Painful
4 stars: Traumatic