REVIEW: ‘The Fourth Kind’

Sorry Milla, I don't believe in 'The Fourth Kind'.

Growing up, I can remember many a Saturday afternoon I spent plopped down in front of the TV waiting for one of my favorite shows to come on: “In Search of…” I was my little nugget of the weird and mysterious in an otherwise ordinary life. I watched wide-eyed as Leonard Nimoy added his sci-fi gravitas to topics like Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle or UFOs. I loved the UFO stories. I liked the idea of life out there. I even did my sixth grade science project on UFOs. So, I’m a big fan of the possibility of extraterrestrial life. However…

I am not a fan of overwrought “dramatizations.”
I am not a fan of stupid people.
I’m certainly not a fan of wasting an hour and a half of my life.
And therefore, I am not a fan of “The Fourth Kind”.

The film opens presenting its star, Milla Jovovich, in a particularly interesting way: as herself. She announces very solemnly that what we are about to see contains “rare archival footage” and that the decision as to whether or not this is a true story resides strictly with us, the audience. It segues into a split screen of Dr. Abigail Tyler (whose work this is “based” on) and Jovovich as Tyler. Apparently, politics isn’t the strangest thing going on in Alaska as we find that people who think they are just having sleeping disorders are really being abducted by aliens who disguise themselves as owls and speak Sumerian.

Really.

Admittedly, that’s somewhat of an oversimplification of some plot elements, but it’s still fairly accurate. It’s also fairly accurate to say that “the Fourth Kind” is not a very good movie. Why? Because my leg can only be pulled so far. OK, I can believe that a psychologist may have found people who, while under hypnosis, say that they’ve been abducted by aliens. OK, and said aliens put a mental image of a big white owl in their brains. Oh, and they speak Sumerian and there’s someone – in Alaska no less — who can actually recognize and interpret the spoken language even though it’s been dead for thousands of years. Uh huh… And even with film, tape and eyewitness accounts, no one believes it. One other thing… the main character may just be batshit crazy?

After all this, I think I may be, too.

Mostly, “the Fourth Kind” suffers from trying too hard to be simultaneously believable and unbelievable and only ends up being irritating. The characters, as portrayed in writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi script, are maddeningly stupid. Ordinarily I could probably go with it – since when people are presented with something overwhelmingly bizarre, they sometimes refuse to acknowledge the evidence. But the movie seems to try to lead us down two conflicting paths – one saying “Yes, we want you to believe this,” and the other saying, “Hey, you can’t believe her! She’s crazy.” Even so, if that were the only problem with the movie, I might be able to forgive it, but they just keep piling it on, like the convoluted lies of a man caught with his penis somewhere it shouldn’t be (“I was just helping it over the fence.”). After so long, you just want it to stop.

All in all, it plays out like any number of cable dramatization shows and left me feeling like I’d experienced an alien abduction myself: One night in October, I was removed from my home, subjected to torture and found that I’d lost approximately an hour and a half of my life that I will never have back.

I think I would have preferred the anal probe.

REVIEW: ‘Saw VI’ (2009)

William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) finds there are worse things than government Health Care Reform in the series-revitalizing "Saw VI".
William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) finds there are worse things than government Health Care Reform in the series-revitalizing "Saw VI".

There are any number of clichés I could start this review with…

It’s Halloween, it must be Saw.
I would like to play a game.

But the one that would be most appropriate with this foundational Lionsgate franchise would be this: The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be. When we last left our intrepid killer (Costas Mandylor) had just squished his FBI counterpart at the end of what was likely the weakest movie of the series. By this point, Saw had devolved from John Kramer (Tobin Bell), or rather, Jigsaw’s extreme methods of getting people to appreciate the gift of life to being just another slasher film with elaborate set pieces. To me, it was the aspect that Jigsaw didn’t just want to kill the people in his traps, he wanted them to sacrifice, and through that, realize the errors of their ways. It was the loss of this focus that made Saws IV and V weaker than their three predecessors.

And then, along came “Saw VI.”

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REVIEW: ‘Paranormal Activity’ (2009)

Yes, I wanted to punch Micah in the face too in "Paranormal Activity".
Yes, I wanted to punch Micah in the face too in "Paranormal Activity".

Years ago, I remember going to my friend’s apartment. He’d just rented this really cool game and I just had to come over and play. It was the first Resident Evil game. We played for hours before the need for sleeps started to creep in around the edges of our eyes. I left his apartment and walked out onto the breezeway. It was eerily still. Occasionally, crisp autumn leaves would whisper across the ground and a chill would grip my shoulders. I looked around, halfway expecting to see something shambling out of the shadows or leaping through a window. So, like any strong, rational man in his twenty-somethings, I ran like a scared little girl to my car, locked the door and drove home. It seemed more like a reflexive reaction than anything thought out.

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REVIEW: ‘Zombieland’ (2009)

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) nut up in the horror comedy, "Zombieland".
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) nut up in the horror comedy, "Zombieland".

Zombies, for whatever reason, are a Western Phenomenon. In this writer’s humble opinion, they represent a fear set unique to our Judeo-Christian based culture: they represent the loss of the Ultimate Certainty. In death, we are assured either reward, punishment, or rest. The concept of the zombie robs us of that, instead replacing it with the fear of continuing on as a mindless automaton, existing only to serve the basest needs of survival – all in all, not entirely unlike spending eternity in a corporate cubicle farm.

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REVIEW: ‘Jennifer’s Body’ (2009)

Megan Fox perfectly cast as a hope-eating demon in "Jennifer's Body".
Megan Fox perfectly cast as a hope-eating demon in "Jennifer's Body".

I am not the kind of guy who is easily impressed by feminine wiles. Whether it is from years of marriage or from DJing one too many nights at topless clubs, I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, though, I’m not the kind of guy to cut a woman slack because she’s pretty. Yes, I am the kind of guy who goes to Hooters for the wings and also complains about the service. It should then go without saying that I was NOT looking forward to seeing Jennifer’s Body, the latest vehicle for movie babe du jour, Megan Fox. I guess I’d just gotten tired of hearing innumerable fanboys going on about, “Who cares if Transformers 2 sucks… Megan Fox, dude.” I really didn’t mind the statement so much – it was just all the drooling that accompanied it. I’m sorry, but a pretty face doesn’t make a crappy movie any less crappy. So, as I sat waiting for the movie to start tonight, I dreaded what was coming.

I ended up with some pleasant surprises.

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REVIEW: ‘Thirst’ (2009)

Very Human. Very Monstrous. The vampiric world according to Park Chan-wook's "Thirst".
Very Human. Very Monstrous. The vampiric world according to Park Chan-wook's "Thirst".

Korean filmmaking, for most of us, brings to mind the painfully bad “Dragon Wars”. For the rest of us, it still bring up the painfully bad (and aforementioned), “Dragon Wars”. Unfortunately, my cinematic travels have not included a whole lot of Korea – none of it, in fact. So, I went into this screening almost completely blind, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ideally, a critic should go into a movie with no prejudices, judging the movie solely on its own merits.

And ideally, Hollywood should turn out movies that are entertaining and not just ground out for the sake of making a buck.
But I digress.

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REVIEW: ‘Orphan’ (2009)

Boy howdy there is something wrong with Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) in "Orphan".
Boy howdy there is something wrong with Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) in "Orphan".

Have you ever had a surprise birthday party that wasn’t a surprise? You know the kind: some over-eager friend or relative just can’t contain themselves and spills the beans ahead of time. Later at party time, you have to walk in and come up with your best surprised reaction, knowing full well that the advanced warning has sucked all that was special out of the surprise.

Fortunately, it’s doesn’t make “Orphan” any worse of a movie.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make it a better one, either.

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Everything You Know About Horror Is Wrong

What Do Horror Fans Want?

The gods bless my wife.

For most of the last year, I’ve watched almost nothing but horror movies. She, for her wifely part, has watched them with me, rarely complaining. We’ve watched big budget franchise movies and no-budget groaners. We’ve watched American, Chilean, English, French, Irish, Italian, Japanese, and Scandinavian horror. Slashers, aliens, monsters, zombies and assorted madmen, we’ve watched them in bunches, and I’ve come to a conclusion:

They don’t scare me.

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