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The Fourth Kind - The Ex-Communicator

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November 9th, 2009


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01:32 pm - The Fourth Kind
'The Fourth Kind' as in 'Close Encounters of...' this is a B movie about a fictional case of alien abduction in an isolated Alaskan town called Nome (which really exists). It's a short low-budget creature feature, which I liked, and made me quite scared. Written and directed by an African-American called Olatunde Osunsanmi, who also appears as a professor called Awolowa Odusami.

It's a clever film, because it uses the audience's expectations to weave a veil of authenticity over a story which is pure hokum. The story begins with Milla Javocich explaining that the film consists of real footage, interspersed with reconstructions, and she will play the part in the reconstructions of a real woman, Abigail Tyler, a psychologist whose patients are remembering alien abduction events. Then you see black and white footage of Abigail Tyler who is very plain and self-conscious compared to Javovich. The whole film slips between this 'real footage' which has unattractive people acting awkwardly on poor-quality film stock, and the 'reconstructions' which are full-colour Hollywood style footage with known minor actors. Sometimes there is a split screen with 'real' footage on one side and 'actors reconstructing the same scene' on the other side of the screen. Sometimes there is a sound-track taken from a 'real' recording of a police interview, while actors on screen mouth the lines. Sometimes the screen splits into four, and the border between the different types of film wanders from side to side on the screen.

Clever. Of course the 'real footage' is actually pretend: this is not a documentary about real events. But most of the really spooky stuff happens in the 'authentic' footage, so it gains a feel of authenticity.

OK, so far so clever. I think there's a second level of (pretend) authenticity which presents itself to you. The film is ostensibly asking 'is there evidence in these hypnotically recovered memories of a series of alien abductions?', and the film maker seems to be using this split-screen reconstruction approach to 'persuade' you that there is. But as you watch you start to question this, and feel that the story which is actually presenting itself is that Abigail Tyler is psychotic, and she has imposed her psychosis on her patients, and on the film makers. And that's extra spooky, because you feel that you have discovered it as a 'real' story, under the Hollywood story. So, once again, the illusion of authenticity.

And then towards the end a third possibility presents itself, as the thing drifts from X-Files to Exorcist, that there might be some sort of Sumerian demon involved... but that third road kind of goes nowhere. And I like the fact that the film ends without any resolution of these storylines.

So - a short low budget bit of nonsense, but using interesting story-telling tricks.

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