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Film / The Fourth Kind

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The Fourth Kind is a 2009 science fiction/thriller/horror movie starring Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, and Will Patton.

The movie follows a psychiatrist, Dr. Abigail Tyler, as she investigates abnormal sleep patterns in the Alaskan town of Nome. Prior to the events of the movie her husband was killed by an intruder and her daughter went blind from the mental trauma. She continues her study in an attempt to keep a normal life and notices that a connection links certain people together; many people remember seeing a white owl outside their window looking at them. She puts one participant under hypnosis and finds that they don't remember an owl at all... no, they remember something much worse...

The movie was advertised, and is strictly enforced throughout the movie itself, as a sort-of docudrama to be based on real case studies and to use actual real-life footage. However, the claims are at best questionable, any attempts to corroborate the events on the movie are met with dead ends or bogus websites.

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Milla Jovovich is obviously more attractive than the "real" Dr. Tyler.
  • Agent Scully: Dr. Abigail's friend and colleague Abel is initially entirely skeptical of the the possibility that aliens are involved with what's happening in Nome, and even tries to rationalize it. However as soon as he himself witnesses what happens to Scott, he too starts believing something is going on. He sadly reverts back to his old self after Abigail's hypnosis, though it's possible that if what happened did indeed happen, the aliens could have wiped his memory of the event.
  • Alien Abduction: This happens to Abigail's daughter
  • Alien Fair Folk: The film implies that the aliens are Ancient Astronauts who have been venerated as gods by civilizations of the past. However, they also seem to believe that they ARE gods, and one possible interpretation is that they are actually nefarious supernatural entities who have been mistaken for aliens.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Played with. The aliens speak ancient Sumerian, but this is justified by them being Ancient Astronauts.
  • Ancient Astronauts: This is stated to be the reason why the aliens speak Sumerian. Some alleged mentions of aliens and their technology in ancient Sumerian texts are also mentioned.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: The movie attempted to present itself as if the movie was based on some Real Life events of alien abductions. As it turned out, that whole premise was a giant hoax to begin with. The movie was loosely based on a rash of disappearances that occurred in Nome, Alaska and the surrounding area, but it turned out most of them had just gotten lost and died of exposure because they were drunk.
  • Black Speech: The aliens speak Sumerian in deep and highly distorted voices.
  • Body Horror: An effect of Abigail's last attempt to contact the aliens. Her spine is snapped like a toothpick and when we see her in the present we see that her eyes look as though they've enlarged to an unsettling degree and she looks like a chemo patient. It's also shattered her mental state. At the first moment that the interviewer questions what all happened she instantly breaks down into tears and completely loses coherency. Scott undergoes a similar situation the last time Abigail hypnotizes him, except unlike Abigail who's confined to a wheelchair, Scott is completely paralyzed from the neck down.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Evidenced by their line "I am... God", the aliens seem to be trying to use this. While what they do throughout the movie to the various abductees may seem supernatural, sufficiently advanced technology could explain it all. We even see some kind of surgical implant device work on the back of Tyler's neck prior to the events of her hypnosis therapy scene.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The movie definitely plays out like a traditional Lovecraftian horror story; everyone is being antagonized by an indescribable and unseen alien presence, the events that play out drive people to act extremely because they're unable to rationalize or cope with the truth of things, there's a looming sense of darkness and hopelessness throughout the film and it all even ends on a dismal and ominous note.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The end credits aren't accompanied by music but by ostensibly real phone calls from people who've had alien encounters ("What if they come back?"), with the time and date of each call appearing on screen.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • As it turns out, Abigail's husband Will shot himself in the head. Abbey invented the murder as a way of dealing with it.
    • Tommy, a patient of Abbey, shoots his family and then himself after remembering his abduction.
  • Episode Discussion Scene: This is actually done at the beginning. Milla Jovovich comes out as herself and explains the plot of the movie and the circumstances surrounding it.
  • Found Footage: Partially. Done mostly to maintain the illusion that the events of the film actually happened in real life.
  • From Bad to Worse: The more Abigail pushes in her investigation, the more violent the retaliation seems to be. Taken to it's most audacious conclusion in the end with the aliens taking Tyler's daughter and utterly breaking Abigail in body and mind out of pure spite.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Tommy goes off the deep end when he finds out that he was abducted by aliens.
  • A God Am I: The aliens seem to believe this. Whether or not they are gods is up for debate (Tyler seems to believe that they just have huge egos) but it crosses over with God Is Evil if they are.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: The aliens. Closest thing we get are shadows in a flashback.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Partial subversion. Ashley is taken away by the aliens and is never found.
  • Jerkass: Sheriff August, even before multiple people have been hurt by the research he demands that the research be shut down. He has apparently confused his legal authority with that of Judge Dredd.
  • Jump Scare: Scott's hypnotherapy features one when he suddenly sits bolt upright, screaming.
  • Mind Screw: What happens to the victims. Their memories appear to be erased, and all they remember is waking up in bed to see the same owl outside the window.
  • Mockumentary/Roman à Clef: The movie is presented as a docudrama of supposedly Real Life events that occurred in Nome, Alaska in October 2000, loaded with Captain Ersatzes of "real" people.
  • Monochrome Casting: Nome in real life is over 50% indigenous, yet the majority of the cast of this film is white, with the remainder being of African descent.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: The establishing shot of Nome seems to indicate that it's a town nestled between towering mountains and lush evergreen forests, when in reality Nome is surrounded on all sides by both arctic tundra and the ocean. It begs the question of whether or not the filmmakers had ever even seen a single picture of Nome before proceeding with production.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • The "owl", which replaces the memories of being abducted.
    • Abigail's face after being put under hypnosis.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The "documented" footage becomes scrambled whenever the aliens appear so you never see what they truly look like. The closest we can to seeing them is very brief moments of vague, shadowy silhouettes coming into the room.
  • Pater Familicide: Tommy kills his family and then himself after he is unable to handle the resurfaced memories of being abducted.
  • Police Are Useless: Sheriff August, overlapping with Rabid Cop at times, and the rest of the police force. This is especially true for the latter during the hostage situation with Tommy and his family, when the cops engage after Tommy shoots his wife and kids and then himself.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The owls are not what they seem.
    • Under hypnosis Tommy says the aliens smell like "putrid cinnamon," a reference to Whitley Strieber's (the author that brought alien abduction into popular culture) recollection that the Visitors have an "organic sourness" to their scent and "a subtle overtone that seemed a little like cinnamon."
    • The title references the same classification of alien encounters as popularized in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • Shown Their Work: Downplayed. For all the indications that the movie was Based on a Great Big Lie, the movie has at least one detail that's related to real-life alleged alien sightings: Memories of alien abductions being replaced by memories of an owl reference the fact that many alleged alien sightings have been argued that could be explained by sightings of large owls.
  • Split Screen: Used throughout the movie, especially when it tries to splice in the "real life found footage" with the reenactment scenes.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Enough to be able to cause memory loss apparently.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Will was never murdered by an intruder, he actually shot himself. The trauma caused Abbey to invent the murder.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The movie might have been a little more scary if the trailers hadn't spoiled all the scariest moments.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Scott starts vomiting after his hypnotherapy session.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: The psychologists treat hypnotism therapy as the default solution to every problem, ever.