Grab your brain-protecting aluminum foil hats and witness the witless and downright insulting alien abduction flick The Fourth Kind.
Alien abduction? How about audience abduction? I saw the worst movie of 2009 for free at a sneak preview and would've paid a $9 ransom to leave. Too many moviegoers will get suckered by Universal's carny show ad campaign promising way more than this movie delivers, or even intends to.
Directed and co-written by Olatunde Osunsammi — don't bother to remember the name — The Fourth Kind is being sold as a fact-based film with videocam "credibility" and viral marketing aimed at gullible tastes. Nothing wrong with that. Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project prove it can be done in good fun.
But each move Osunsammi intends to add authenticity to the alien angle is phonier than the previous one. Except the first, of course, when Milla Jovovich solemnly warns viewers of disturbing evidence based on 65 hours of video and audio recorded by her character, nonexistent Alaska psychologist Abigail Tyler. It's all bogus from there.
Need a drinking game? Chug each time the word "actual" appears on screen as Osunsammi goads viewers to believe. Double-chug when the word "alias" is attached to a character's name, as if they'd complain otherwise.
"In the end, what you believe is yours to decide," Jovovich says.
I believe you should see what else is playing at the multiplex.
Osunsammi immediately blows the ruse, appearing as himself interviewing the "real" Abigail Tyler about something weird that we'll learn too little about much later and won't be impressed. He continually splits the screen, with "real" Abigail and her patients in hypnotic trances on one side and actors imitating them, word for word, twitch for twitch on the other.
In that regard, The Fourth Kind is a bargain, offering two terrible movies for one price.
Fifty minutes of hysterical hoohah pass before anyone mentions alien abductions. They're as real as Abigail Tyler, but wouldn't you know it, their extraterrestrial energy completely scrambles video feeds at crucial moments, of which there are only two. We hear human screams and a distorted voice speaking a dead language, a glimpse of spindly fingers through the interference and that's it. Owls get more respect from Osunsammi.
More time is wasted on a grumpy sheriff (hammy Will Patton) trying to pin anything going wrong on Abigail and her highfalutin hypnosis. Subplots about Abigail's dead husband, sullen son and suddenly blind daughter (a victim of conversion disorder, which, surprising for this movie, does exist) mean more than aliens by the overdue fadeout.
But there is one moment of clarity in The Fourth Kind, when Abigail's psychologist buddy (Elias Koteas) comforts her with the movie's lone sensible thought:
"It is one thing to investigate wild theories and quite another to invest in them."
Good advice that applies at the box office, too.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.