The Fourth Kind Review
Written by: dave
The Fourth Kind is bogged down by it's own attempts to be clever when it's little more than a dressed up 'found footage' film. While I can applaud the direction it was intended to go the execution fell completely flat. Several small things were recurring items that shouldn't have been issues but immediately broke any connection I had with the film.
The first were the constant aerial shots. The intention was to make the audience feel the isolation of the location but there were never any other attempts to do so. Nothing to tie the aerial shots to aside from early throw away dialogue. Instead they come off as pretty scenery and have zero net effect otherwise. Were it only the few shots in the opening fifteen minutes that would have been not only forgivable but appropriate. Instead these shots were distractingly peppered through out. In a couple of segments there is a camera pan back and forth as one of the subjects of the scene changes between pans. This technique feels exactly like where it was lifted from, TV cop drama. It's awkward and incongruous with the rest of the camera and editing work. Instead of influencing the audience to feel the tension of the moment we're left feeling like the characters are the same but that channel has changed.
Editing moved from smooth, professional, and seamless edits in to a hokey multishot mess of movement. Resizing and moving panels served as a general distraction masking the fact that nothing of grave importance was actually happening. Were these segments something someone had slapped together and posted to the Internet I would applaud them. It's work to put together segments like this and have them coherent. As a stand alone piece they would work fine if out of context. In context it is used just enough to be obnoxious while not being relevant to the overall film as a coherent work. We're given a three point perspective between the traditional narrative, the camcorder footage, and the interview segments. It's one too many as the interview segments are poorly overdone. These segments worm their way in to the bad documentary territory of talking heads given too much screen time. By itself that isn't a fatal flaw, but when coupled with the copious amount of time that the 'real' Abby Tyler is given and how obvious and heavy the white make up is on her face it crosses over in to unintentionally mocking itself. What sets this film apart, the consumer grade camera footage, is ultimately it's biggest detriment.
As a consistently dramatic piece it would have held it's own. There is a compelling story buried underneath the conceit layered on top of it. What could be the most compelling moments in a traditional film are covered up by editing. A distorted image loses it's effect very quickly. It should be suggestive. Instead it feels lazy. Abrupt changes in the camera work during the traditional narrative portions continued to catch my attention. At given points of dramatic tension the camera would slip from smooth and professional movements to distinctly handheld shots. Of itselt, not a major issue. The trouble is these shots had exaggerated movement. It appears as though intentional sway had been added to the shots to force a sense of realism on the audience. There is little point in making the distinction between the segments if you're going to then try to bleed across them. We're given just enough of a real movie to give us an idea of what it could have been while ramming the consumer camera footage down our throats at regular enough intervals to remind us that's not the movie we got. Done differently or at half it's length it would have been significantly more effective.
I'm generally hesitant to rate a movie anything out of anything. I tend to prefer communicating my thoughts on a movie as to whether I would recommend it to another person. In the case of The Fourth Kind? No, I definitely would not. The four star rating still stands despite that recommendation as there is a great concept and some interesting scenes mired by clunky execution and an ending that limps to an anti-climatic close.