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Hoax movies have proven to be quite popular with movie audiences. The whole point of a Hoax movie is to pretend to be real, so that you can pretend to believe in the story, and as such, be more involved emotionally. From mockumentaries such as This Is Spinal Tap (1984) to horror mega successes such as Blair Witch Project 1, The (1999) or Paranormal Activity (2007), the field is certainly very crowded. Typically, the film makers will employ either a documentary or gonzo style of filming in which everything is done to make the audience believe this is anything but a film, that this really happened.
The most overused plot device has got to be the "recovered lost tape" where an individual or a group of individuals get involved in something quite extraordinary, or horrible, while filming it all, and that tape or camera gets recovered at a later time and we finally learn what truly happened. This has been used of course in the aforementioned Blair Witch Project 1, The (1999) or Paranormal Activity (2007), but also in the wrenching Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Romero's latest zombie flick Living Dead 5, Diary Of The Dead, The (2007), the fantastic Spanish horror nail biter [REC] (2007) and its better than expected American remake Quarantine (2008), or the sci-fi romp Cloverfield (2008).
I have always found this genre to be fraught with peril. It is, at least to me, the ultimate suspension of disbelief. I know very well that i am watching a movie, so i know completely that this is not real at all, even if "based on real events" as so many marketers like to say. If a documentary style is used, it better be to present me with an alternative storytelling technique, and enhance the actual story, rather than to try to sucker me into believing something is real when i perfectly know it isn't.
With that litmus test in mind, Fourth Kind, The (2009) passes with flying colors. Not only does it present you with a fantastic story, full of details and cool characters, but the documentary filming techniques never gets in the way. In fact, it's often pushed out of the way to deliver more carefully created visuals, and some incredible sound effects. The movie explicitly spells out its structure by saying right at the beginning that it mixes "real" tapes, "real" videos, along with re-enactments performed by actors. The result is surprisingly engaging and tense, and for a second, i was wondering if i was watching reality or not. This movie is so well done in all respects, that it was hard for me not to get suckered in. I absolutely want to see more from new director Olatunde Osunsanmi.
Most fantastic was the story woven around Alien abductions. I know it's all BS, but it was well constructed. Also, to be noteworthy was the sound design. I have a hard time remembering a movie with such a powerful and elaborate sound design. That, along with jaw-dropping editing clearly made my heart beat an extra 20% faster during the more intense scenes. This is a movie that needs to be watched with the volume up, and a good sound system. The only blemish is perhaps with the acting, which is at times not so believable. Milla Jovovich may be gorgeous, and a decent actress most of the times, but under times of real stress for her character, she never seems to be able to pull it off. The comparison is all the more difficult given that we have another actress playing the "real" character in the movie, and she manages to be really subdued and creepy.
When you start this movie, you know it's just a story. There are no real events this is based on of course, but it doesn't get in the way of a very enjoyable experience. The movie is absolutely well done and hits all the right spots in terms of scares. This is a movie i will want to see again at some point, to enjoy it again, or see whether i was just suckered into it the first time.
- Laurent Hasson