Original release: November 6th, 2009
Running time: 98 minutes
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Writers: Olatunde Osunsanmi, Terry Robbins
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Will Patton, Corey Johnson
The Sumerian civilization: 00:52:00 to 00:53:38
Around 50 years ago if you asked people whether or not they believed in the existence of aliens, you might’ve been carted off to the nearest psychiatric institution for an indefinite stay, but today there seems to be a growing acceptance to the idea that we’re not alone in the universe. Despite the world’s space agencies and governments remaining tight-lipped on the subject, it’s probably film, television and literature (and of course the internet) we have to thank for making the subject so widely available to us, yet we’ve probably never really considered the greater implications on our everyday lives if such beings are really among us. For example, if they’ve been visiting us, why are they here? What are we to them? How much contact is there between us and them?
In 1972 astronomer and UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek laid out a scale of classification that continues to help us today when sorting through the numerous reports of experiences people have with these beings. In his book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry, Hynek defines the first kind as visual sightings of an unidentified flying object, the second kind as visual sightings plus the accompanying of physical evidence, the third kind as sightings of “occupants” in and around the UFO. Later on, Hynek’s scale was expanded to include more encounters, including the fourth kind – when a human is abducted by a UFO or its occupants.
From there the encounters become even more terrifying and there are cases that describe UFO incidents causing direct injury or death and even mating between a human being and extraterrestrial that produces a human-alien hybridization, but for now it’s really the fourth kind we’ve concerned with and how this 2009 film manages to portray a story about such a series of encounters.
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi from a script he wrote with Terry Robbins, The Fourth Kind blurs the lines between fiction and documentary by presenting us with footage that lead actress Milla Jovovich tells us at the beginning is based on real events. Set in Nome, Alaska in 2000, we meet psychologist Dr. Abbey Tyler (Jovovich) who uses hypnosis to uncover memories from her patients. She comes into contact with three patients, all of whom have the same experience of seeing a white owl through their windows at night staring at them.
As Abby puts them under hypnosis they tell her terrifying stories about beings entering their rooms. When one of her patients, Tommy Fisher (Corey Johnson), the first to undergo the hypnosis, goes on to kill his wife and child and commit suicide, Sheriff August (Will Patton) remains skeptical to her claims that the patients have all been victims of alien abductions. Her colleague, Dr. Abel Campos (Elias Koteas), a psychologist from Anchorage, is also unwilling to believe these claims. We also learn that Abby has her own trauma to deal with; her husband was mysteriously murdered one night in his sleep, leaving her to raise their two children, Ashley (Mia McKenna-Bruce) and Ronnie (Raphael Coleman).
At night Abby uses a dictaphone to record herself talking about her patients. When her assistant plays back the tape one morning to transcribe them, she discovers something alarming. Abby’s voice can be heard on it, but there’s also the sound of something there with her, in her house. We hear Abby’s screams over the recording but she has no memory of such a thing taking place, giving us reason to believe that she herself may have been abducted.
Dr. Campos contacts Dr. Odusami (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), a specialist in ancient languages who might be able to help them translate what’s heard on the tape and they’re shocked to find it’s actually Sumerian.
Now, I’ve studied the Sumerian civilization for most of my career, and what I have found is intriguing. You can go into any Sumerian exhibit and see what I am about to tell you. Drawings of rockets that look like Apollo, launching into the sky. Etchings and sculptures of men in spacesuits and what looked like oxygen masks. And this artwork was created in the fourth millennium B.C.E., 4,000 years before Christ walked the Earth. Genesis, Noah’s Ark, to name a few, both of these stories existed in Sumer 6,000 years before the Bible was written. Genesis came from the Sumerian epic of creation. Noah’s Ark came from the Sumerian deluge. The alien-god legend has its basis, its origins, in Sumerian history. You can find everything I’ve described in a museum right now.
Sheriff August still refuses to believe this has anything to do with aliens and maintains that Abby is only endangering her patients and places her under arrest when Scott Stracinsky (Enzo Cilenti) is left severely injured after a session with her, but when her daughter Ashley vanishes one night from their home, his suspicion falls squarely on her.
The film culminates with Abby herself undergoing hypnosis with Dr. Campos and Dr. Odusami and it’s probably her that The Fourth Kind is at its scariest as we see the desperate mother trying to make contact with the aliens to get her daughter back. While the session is being videotaped, we find out what really happened and the film hints at who and what these beings are, as well as what they might want from us. When Abby wakes from the hypnosis what we see is something that can’t easily be described. The images remain unsettling, though the “actual” footage is distorted. When it returns to normal, the room is empty – Dr. Campos, Dr. Odusami and Abby are gone.
What’s so disturbing about The Fourth Kind is the malevolence that we see bestowed upon Abby, her patients and her family at the hands of the mysterious visitors. With the film using the angle of ancient aliens; that as far back since Sumerian times they’ve been among us, we get the feeling that our place as humans in the universe is a very small and insignificant one if we can just be picked up and poked at like rabbits in a lab. While it can be a little confusing at first, using two components: dramatization, in which professional actors portray the individuals involved, and video footage purporting to show the actual victims undergoing hypnosis, The Fourth Kind goes on to effectively present dramatised and “actual” footage alongside each other in split-screen, giving us the feeling we’d get from one of those true-life crime shows or ones devoted to unsolved mysteries.
It’s the kind of film that certainly opens the forum up for debate, a kind of debate that might not’ve been possible half a century ago, but might be one people today are more open to.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .