People who believe in alien abduction tend to be the kind of folks who follow daytime talk shows and late-night KTLK programs, or who shell out $75 for three-day conferences that claim to help us connect to our psychic selves. Sometimes these people are completely rational about their beliefs in an extraterrestrial kind, sometimes they're not.
Dr. Abigail Tyler can't help but be irrational about it; after all, aliens abducted her. In the opening scene of "The Fourth Kind," actress Milla Jovovich, who portrays the real-life psychiatrist, explains to viewers that major scenes in the film are supported by archival footage from 2000, footage that Tyler taped and witnessed herself in sessions with her patients. That might explain why the real Tyler looks so terrifying: gaunt, ghost-pale and haunted like a crazy woman on the street. There are four classifications of alien encounters, she says; the fourth kind -- the kind she experienced nine years ago -- is the worst.
"The Fourth Kind," directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, focuses on secluded Nome, Alaska. For years, people have been disappearing, slaying their families and committing suicide. Tyler's patients all claim to be haunted by a white owl each night. The good doctor, suffering the violent loss of her psychiatrist husband, wants to find out why. When she puts her patients under hypnosis, they reveal night terrors that send the town into upheaval and plunge Tyler, her children and her colleagues into danger.
Whether the events depicted in "The Fourth Kind" actually happened or not, it is incredibly creepy -- Osunsanmi heightens our anxiousness and panic with rapid-fire shots, jerking from grainy video camera footage to reenactments, and creating a viewing environment of extreme unease. We never see any little green men, but if that otherworldly chanting coming from the bodies of the possessed is any indicator, extraterrestrials might not always come in peace.
Although Jovovich carries the picture believably on her supermodel shoulders, it's the real Dr. Tyler who freaks us out. The giant owl-like eyes and hurt whisper we witness in her interview will remain in your consciousness much longer than the rest of the picture. Whether or not you believe in close encounters, "The Fourth Kind" is legitimately scary enough to keep you in your seat. (Just don't Google the flick before you see it.)