There is something horribly exploitative about trying to pass footage of someone committing a murder/suicide of his entire family as authentic. That is desperation of the worst kind, trying to draw a shock for some form of emotional content. The rest of the material is anemic.
Fourth Kind is a farce, billed as being truth and directed with such an aggravating style, that being pulled into the story is almost impossible. There are unnamed actors playing “real” people, and other credited actors playing those, uh, not real people (?).
Director Olatunde Osunsanmi chooses to insert what are supposed to be actual video clips from the various interviews conducted by psychiatrist Abbey Tyler. The ridiculousness of it all, not to mention how unnecessary it all is, begins when the footage overlaps. You will literally see split video windows, sometimes up to four different ways, all playing their own video. Annoyingly, dialogue can be exactly the same but mistimed, creating an echo effect. Other times, the sound is timed, but the dialogue is wrong.
The film never settles in, insistent on making people believe this is all real, yet completely cheating when the major reveals would happen. A UFO shows up over a house? The tape was distorted. A guy begins floating in his bedroom? That tape was also rendered unintelligible. If you were so dead set on making something “real” for an audience willing to digest it, why pull out one of the oldest tricks of any scam artist?
Fourth Kind has no faith in its audience’s intelligence either. Character names are brought up on screen repeatedly, even an hour into the film. It chooses to note that the footage is “real” when it is shot on the tape, the difference in video already providing differentiation. Interviews with the supposed real Abbey continually state that it is a recorded interview, even though the camera viewpoint remains the same as does the background. After the first clips, an audience can figure it out.
Oddly, in the end during its rundown of what happened to all of the characters since filming completed, there is a grammatical error in the sentence structure (and not just a small one). How that ends up on screen is a bit of a mystery, or maybe it was some intentional effect. It is careless, and yet another strike to the audience’s intelligence, and furthering the cheapness of the entire thing.
A decent portion of the movie is filmed on tape, or low resolution digital video. Those are the “real” segments. Their quality is obviously sub-par, and cannot be considered in any review of the encode itself. They look exactly as intended.
The actual movie, shot on 35MM, begins on an interview between Abbey and a patient. This is a stunner, with fully resolved facial textures, remarkable depth, bold color, rich blacks, and a bright contrast. A minimal level of grain is always present, and in the capable hands of Universal’s VC-1 encode.
Fourth Kind can actually do one better, providing some breathtaking shots of Abbey flying into Nome. The mountainous landscape is jaw-dropping in its beauty. Razor sharp with fully delineated texture, these are nothing short of reference material. Every pine tree and rock seems completely visible, even into the distance. On the ground, foliage is just as sharp, such as when Abbey picks her daughter up from school. Other environments, such as Abbey’s office, look wonderful when in full focus.
Black levels hold under all dimly lit conditions, even if high fidelity detail does not. Likewise, mid-range shots also struggle to reproduce a minute level of what the close-ups are capable of. A slightly hot contrast in spots can also bleach out textures partially. Flesh tones carry a variety of tints that are scene dependent, but always accurate considering the lighting.
Some technical problems include banding against the red wall in Scott’s bedroom right at the hour mark, and significant artifacting around the stars during a shot of the Aurora Borealis, logged at 1:20:45. There are no noted instances of ringing or edge enhancement.
It’s funny, but the main menu of this disc is actually fun to listen to. Voices swirl around the soundfield, mimicking an effect in the movie itself. It is that rare disc where the looping audio is rather inoffensive if you spend some time navigating.
The actual movie loves splitting dialogue. The multi-frame shots keep the words in the appropriate channel, i.e., if the video shows the actor talking on the left, that is where the dialogue clearly originates. During various hallucinations or dreams, sound effects and voices swirl around effectively although they tend to be unintelligible on purpose.
Scene transitions provide the heaviest bass, at times producing a mild scare in the process. There are some heavy jolts that extend deeply even though they are not connected to any action.
Dialogue can be low, especially poor when the words are coming from some tape-recorded conversation that adds its own level of distortion. Most of the time, the disc is able to balance all of the elements, especially apparent during a standoff. Dogs are barking, helicopters are swirling overhead, police sirens are blaring, radios carry chatter, rain is falling, and yet the main dialogue is easily distinguished.
The only extra is a 23-minute collection of deleted scenes, because this is all “real” you see. D-Box support is included along with Universal’s familiar BD-Live support.