The Fourth Kind offers a fresh new approach for a movie, a film where the actors are identified as actors and purposefully break the “fourth wall” in order to speak directly to the audience and give credibility to the supposed documentary/interview footage that is interspersed throughout. The director himself appears in the film, tells us that he is directing the film, tells us that he is skeptical, tells us that we should judge for ourselves based on the grainy documentary footage, the staticky recordings…

But here’s the problem: in order to find this a successful film, you’ve got to really really believe that it’s all true. Because the film offers no resolution.

This (the lack of resolution, or a hokey resolution) is something that has plagued the faux-real-footage film for a decade, from Blair Witch to Cloverfield to Paranormal Activity. These movies rely on the “real” footage to tell the entire story, and so they usually just wind up killing the main character so that they can end on a creepy camera angle without having to answer any questions (because how can they ever answer all the questions if the footage was just “found” somewhere?). It’s a lazy and disappointing finish.

The Fourth Kind, by offering no real resolution, winds up feeling like a big-budget version of an “Unsolved Mysteries” episode. If it’s all real, then you’re engrossed. But think of what might happen if you watched “America’s Most Wanted” only to realize that the murders were all fictitious. What’s the point?It only works when you believe.

So if this is all fictional material, why not just write a resolution? You’re no longer relying on the “we just found all this footage” conceit, since the actors have told us that they’re dramatizing scenes outside of the documentary footage.

In the end, this is a story that out-clevers itself. Yes, the ending is disappointing (as are the endings of Cloverfield and Blair Witch, etc.), but it’s more disappointing because the filmmakers have given themselves a clever way to actually provide a resolution, but instead leave us hanging as if this is still an unsolved mystery…

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