The Fourth Kind is pretty much a straightforward alien abduction film which follows a straightforward alien abduction storyline. (Usually, this is deemed too boring and familiar for Hollywood movies.) There are a weird prologue and epilogue, in which actors from the film stand in front of a moving background of backlit trees in a forest and inform us that yes, this really is a true story, which is enough to convince us that it is not, even when so-called "real footage" is interspliced with the "fictional recreations" to bolster the illusion.
Even if none of the so-called reality of the story is believable, the film follows the tropes of many reported alien abduction stories, so it's hard to see why calling it real was necessary. It doesn't create more credibility, but less.
I happened to watch The Fourth Kind the same day I watched A Serious Man, so I noticed a few structural similarities. Both films are about a seemingly pretty average person dealing with the stress of losing a spouse and raising two children. In both films, strange and disturbing incidents build and build to a similar climax.
But in A Serious Man, this prompts the main character to look for the hand of God in his life. In The Fourth Kind, Dr. Abigail Tyler (Milla Jovovich), a psychologist in Nome, Alaska, also looks heavenward, but sees only aliens.
Having lost her husband under mysterious circumstances, officially ruled a suicide but subject to her own repressed or unfolding memories, Dr. Tyler begins noticing a similar theme of night disturbances with several of her patients, who report seeing a "white owl" staring at them through their windows, sometimes seeming to mesmerize them. Consciously or subconsciously hoping to bring together the threads of their stories in harmony with her own jagged memory of losing her husband, she uses hypnosis to relive and uncover missing information, which turns out to sound a lot like alien abduction tales.
There are some other quite disturbing consequences as well, which I won't spoil, but which are backed up with more supposedly real footage which isn't very scary or creepy, for my money.
Suspense is lacking as well. While A Serious Man is a masterwork of tension and suspense, with multiple story threads overlapping and developing into a stunning tapestry, the choices made in The Fourth Kind--sidelining into presumed-to-be-interesting "evidence," the editing, the choice of effects and when to use them--make it boring, boring, boring. Especially, it is unhelpful for the "real" Dr. Tyler to appear in her boring, longwinded "interview" with the director, which features the logo of Chapman University (a real school, shame on them) to lend it credence. She looks like the worst Halloween costume ever, no offense to the actress, whoever she may be.
As for comparisons with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, there are few if any. That weird Kay Jewelers commercial where Jane Seymour paints a heart connected with a loop to a pair of breasts reminds me of Richard Dreyfuss maniacally constructing a mountain out of mashed potatoes, but this movie doesn't remind me about anything in its similarly named predecessor.
I suppose if you're a UFO nut, or a big Milla Jovovich fan, or have some other reason to really want to watch this movie, you'll probably find the reason you're looking for. But it's pretty rote and boring, with little payoff. Why not watch A Serious Man, instead? Or Close Encounters.
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