Paul Dundon’s Weblog

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A little cheese and a little whine

Film log: Fourth Kind

Details here

This film sets out to be Blair Witch meets The Forgotten but ends up more like Fargo meets Invasion of the Saucer Men. The idea of a docudrama about alien abduction sounds pretty good, but this film fails so dismally at both docu and drama that you really wonder why they bothered.

The drama is based on the question of whether the central character is uncovering a legitimate phenomenon or is mentally unstable. In the end, it turns out that both are true, and worse, unrelatedly true: she’s just someone who happens to be unstable investigating an unrelated phenomenon which turns out to be legitimate. It’s a bit like watching the lead scientist in a biohazard outbreak movie sneezing through the first half of the film, and then discovering that she has hayfever.

The question of her stability is dramatised by the disappearance of her daughter: was she abducted, or did the protagonist kill her? Alas, the film leaves us in absolutely no doubt that she was abducted, again making us wonder why they bothered with this part of the plot. The writing of the drama is, in fact, so poor that it fails even to reach the standard of typical contemporary documentaries: I have been brought closer to the edge of my seat in the few moments it takes to reach for the remote after the start of Police, Camera, Action than this film brought me in two hours.

The fate of the daughter would be genuinely troubling if we bought into the “docu” side of things, and here I have to say I am stumped as to what the film intended. I can’t believe that the producers would do something so crass as to simply try to leverage the impact of the film by trying to deceive the audience as to its veracity, and the pseudo-documentary footage is so obviously staged that they have clearly not tried very hard if this is the case. For the same reason, there isn’t really room for debate (as there is for Blair Witch) about the how much of the film is real. The best account I can think of for what was meant here is something like: here’s a fairly weak drama, but if you pretend it’s a documentary while you’re watching it, it gets quite scary. In the end, though, we know this is fiction, pure and simple (it’s not even as convincing as the old Nationwide April Fool’s hoaxes) and even as documentary it isn’t particularly harrowing; so the whole project just comes off as a waste of everyone’s time.

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Filed under: Film + TV

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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