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Fourth Kind, The (2009) Print E-mail
Monday, 08 March 2010
ImageParanormal activity has probably the biggest cult following in the history of mankind.  According to this film, there have been over two million documented reports of alien or paranormal activity, ranging from abduction to encounters to sightings.  While a great number of these reports can easily be proven false, there are some that truly boggle the mind.  "The Fourth Kind" is a tale of one such story.

There are a number of "ghost" shows out there such as "Ghost Hunters" and "Most Haunted."  These shows never, ever show anything that is astounding.  It is always a bunch of feelings and technical gizmos that flash.  The only way the events on those shows can be remotely believed is by being there in person.

"The Fourth Kind" is different.  And, it is a different type of film that blends the genres of mystery/suspense/thriller and documentary.  The film has actor-shot footage blended with real footage upon which this film is based.  I was a little hesitant at first about this idea, but over time it revealed itself as a brilliant move.  What the crosscutting and split-screen footages do is ground the film in reality.  Without the real footage, the film is simply another paranormal film that may be based on actual events but is never concluded that way by the audience.

"The Fourth Kind" keeps the audience based in reality, keeping the audience interested in what happened to this woman.  There are points in which the film feels a bit too much like an episode of "The Twilight Zone" or "Unsolved Mysteries."  However, even those parts are still interesting to watch.

The film is about Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist that performs research studies in Nome, Alaska.  While real footage actually shows the real Tyler, the acted portion of the film has Tyler portrayed by MIlla Jovovich.  After Tyler suffers the brutal murder of her husband right in the bed next to her, she insists on continuing the research trials.  Her patients all exhibit the same symptoms.  They share the same story.  It is needless to say that something weird is going down in Nome. When Tyler begins to hypnotize here patients, violence breaks out and unthinkable actions occur.  The more that Tyler delves into the mysteries of her patients, the more that her life unravels.  I don't want to spoil any of the events, but I will tell you that what happens to Tyler will leave you questioning some of your beliefs.  While the majority of what happens to her can be attributed to a specific cause that is revealed at the end of the film, there are other events, one in particular that leaves you puzzled.

With real footage intermingled with dramatizations I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of the Blu-ray video transfer.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  The dramatized footage is superb.  The details and textures are extraordinary.  Facial features and costumes are boldly represented.  The black levels are faithful, though crushing is constant.  The contrast levels are deep, many times contributing to the crush.  Color saturation is appropriate for the Alaskan atmosphere.  Fleshtones remain pale.  There is a haze of blue and yellow covering the screen, which is accurate as to the required color temperature.  There is not artifacting and grain is minimal.  Now, the real footage is another story.  While I expect 2000 video footage to be of better quality, the footage is representative of the filmmakers' intentions.  It provides a nice contrast to the dramatization footage.  Even with all the aliasing issues, the video it still watchable and somehow works.  In the end, the video transfer is perfect for the type of film.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is darn near perfect.  The track works in parts and as whole.  It is immersive to say the least.  Rear channel activity is constant.  LFE support is notable throughout and will rattle the seats during a few encounters.  The dialogue is nicely prioritized and clean.  The panning and directionality of the sounds are perfect.  They are clearly distinguishable but at the same time don't make you turn your head and remove you from the viewing experience.  As such as film, there are numerous instances of stings and cries that will make you jump.  The score and stings work well together.  Even when you suspect something is coming, you will still jump.  Trust me.  The one thing about this track that might hurt listeners is the dynamic range.  While the dynamic range itself is nice and expansive, the sound design lends to a hurtful dynamic range.  Some listeners will be cranking the volume to the hear some of the quiet dialogue scenes, only to be startled by speakers that are ready to burst when the sting comes in after a fade out.  However, if you are watching this film in a home theater and not your living room setup, then the dynamics work perfectly.  This is a very memorable audio track.

The Blu-ray does not come with much of anything in terms of special features.  As this film is based on a real story, there was enormous potential for terrific bonus materials.  Unfortunately, we are left with just a collection of deleted/extended scenes.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray is pocketBLU functionality, D-Box Motion Control and BD-Live social networking.

I am not a big believer in the paranormal, but this story and film made me think.  The video and audio qualities are terrific.  Overall, this is a film and disc that needs to be seen.  Recommended.

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