By Budd HopkinsOn Tuesday, Nov. 3, as I sat in a theater being bombarded with soundtrack noise - screams - many screams - and melodramatic, over-the-top music, I was watching the new, self-described UFO abuction film, The Fourth Kind, and wondering how the screenwriters could get so many things wrong. Ostensibly set in Nome, Alaska - which, by the way, looks ravishingly pretty in the film's many elaborate aerial views - the plot is focused on a therapist and her clients who have apparently suffered UFO abductions, and at least one of these "abductees," the therapist's little daughter, seems to have been taken for good. The film moves along, more or less propelled by fake hypnosis sessions in which virtually every subject screams bloody murder. One man, grotesquely unhinged by what he remembers during one such session, actually commits murder, blowing away his innocent wife, his two children and himself. And in this and every other case shown in the movie, apart from an owl at the window no one has previously remembered anything about his or her abduction experiences until hypnosis finally unlocks the ghastly, unbearable truth and the screaming starts.
Underlying all of this fictional, never before reported malarky, the film's pseudo-documentary style strains to convince us that everything depicted is "supported by actual case material." Well, after thirty-three years of working with hundreds upon hundreds people reporting UFO abduction experiences, I can say, first, that in no case has anyone ever reported the permanent disappearance of a friend, a family member or anyone even vaguely connected with my huge pool of subjects. The sort of final, "taken-by-the-aliens disappearance" that the film suggests simply doesn't happen - though, unfortunately, this tragic turn in the screenplay could disturb many uninformed people in a real-world audience.
Second, the hyper-emotional reactions mimed by the actors are almost non-existent in competently conducted hypnosis sessions. I've observed actual screams in perhaps six or seven of the nearly two thousand hypnosis sessions I've been present for, or carried out myself, over three decades, and have never seen the kind of mindless terror, vomiting and crashing about that the movie graphically, and shamelessly, forces upon the audience.
In a third bizarre invention, the screenwriters have entangled an ancient Sumerian language with the abduction phenomenon, so in this movie the aliens apparently speak Sumerian. Why is that, especially when communication in abduction experiences is almost inevitably telepathic? Is it because this tasty bit of fiction allows the camera to pan over a museum full of scary-looking ancient artifacts?
I could go on and on with the issues of fact, taste and simple plotting that I have with this movie, but I haven't the heart or the patience to do so. The bottom line is this: save your $12.50 or whatever a ticket costs at your local theater, and if you should suspect that you may have had an abduction experience, absolutely stay away. Such a viewer could be deeply unsettled by this noisy, fictional mishmash, which, as I've said, involves murder, gunfire and suicide, as well as seemingly endless minutes of blurred, fake video imagery which the filmmakers insist is "real."
(Mercifully, no special-effects aliens or UFOs are actually depicted.)
Despite the "unbearable terrors" of hypnotic recall that this movie claims to demonstrate, if a person should undergo hypnotic exploration of partially recalled abduction experiences, that individual will not pick up a pistol afterwards and shoot somebody, none of her family members will be permanently abducted, and he probably won't do very much helpless screaming. Those things seem to happen only in certain kinds of lurid sci-fi or horror movies, of which The Fourth Kind is an extremely unfortunate mixture.