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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is it a spoiler to reveal that ‘The Fourth Kind’ is a total fakeout?

And there I’ve gone and spoiled The Fourth Kind again, at least according to Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects. Yesterday, he posted a long complaint about how elitist film critics who don’t really love film but love feeling all insider-y have ruined this movie by highlighting — sometimes in the headlines of our reviews, where those who would prefer to avoid spoilers can’t avoid them — that the film is not, in fact, based on reality like it insists it is. He wrote, in part:

[F]or some reason, it’s been open season on spoiling this film. I have no idea why, but leading up to its opening, everything from spoiler-warning-free reviews to errant twitter feeds were shouting from the rooftops about how what the film was purporting to be real was fake. How the entire premise of the film was a sham.

Essentially, people were running around making it impossible for those encountering their snark to see the film with fresh eyes. For, as you may know, not only is the film being marketed as the dramatic interpretation of true events, but it’s also presented that way. It’s central to the filmic experience, and that central premise was stolen from a ton of people (some of which may have loved the film).

This seems preposterous to me. If someone made a movie purporting to rip the lid off the sweatshop work conditions for the elves at the North Pole, and pulled that concept off with “secretly shot” documentary footage and interviews with “experts” on elvish working conditions and the production of legal documents showing Santa Claus’s long and litigious history of abusing his workers, and I don’t see how it would “spoil” the movie to say that, you know, there is no Santa Claus. But it might be necessary to talk about the falseness of the film in order to talk about whether it was able to be convincing about what it was attempting anyway. Which is the tack that I took with my review of The Fourth Kind: we know it’s fake, but there’s a kind of power in how it goes about trying to pull our collective leg about it anyway.

What do you think? Is it a spoiler to reveal that The Fourth Kind is a total fakeout?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • David

    I would say it is totally not, especially taking into account the preview basically shows this with their fake Nome, Alaska. I just assumed it would be not true because they were trting to push it as true so hard.

  • Your point is a valid one, MaryAnn. You’d have to be very gullible to think ‘The Fourth Kind” could be anything but fantasy. I mean think about it. Let’s posit that there have been documented cases of alien abductions taking place in the United States. Videos, depositions of psychologists, police records, etc. You don’t think that would make regular news? You don’t think if you did a Google News search for “Nome AK aliens” that you could find some news stories, even if only local ones, that documented these claims?

    Evidently people must think there are plenty of aliens running around the Earth hiding like crazy so that only true believers ever see them.

    Read Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World” to understand why people believe in aliens today in the same way they believed in angel and demon visitations in the middle ages. That’s how the mind works.

    But no, if there were documented alien encounters (not just someone claiming it), it would be all over the news, not just in a horror motion picture. To anyone who thinks this is a spoiler, you’re just not using logic.

  • MaSch

    Question, and the answer might be a spoiler: Does the movie admit and say right-out that it is all fake? Or is it simply a case of conspiracy lunatic film critics doubting the truthfulness of the original footage shown in the movie?

    If the latter is the case, and this is thought of as a spoiler, then the concept of “spoiler” needs some serious rethinking.

  • MBI

    For some reason, I’m reminded of Stephen Glass, the journalist who completely fabricated some three dozen articles for The New Republic. Alex Jackson of Film Freak Central read some of the articles and noted that they could have had a lot of use as satirical fiction, but as non-fiction they completely step out of bounds, even though Glass didn’t defame anyone because his subjects didn’t actually exist. The stories about badly behaving Young Republicans didn’t hurt any actual person, but it did hurt the IDEA of Young Republicanism, and ideas need to be able to use the facts to defend themselves, an option which Glass denied.

    Of course, it’s ridiculous to believe in aliens, MaryAnn argues, but the Glass articles were often equally ridiculous — a church that worshipped George Bush Sr., for example. Yes, yes, I realize that “Based on a true story” lies are a common tactic in movies — most notably in “Fargo,” but even then the point was more farcical than to actually convince you it happened. “The Fourth Kind” surpasses “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” in that it doesn’t just present its movie as found footage, but that it actually goes out of its way to present portions of itself as reality, rather than merely implying it. I feel like at this point it becomes an active hoax.

    The fact that it is not true is an extraordinarily important part of the movie. If it’s that obvious, then no harm is done by revealing it. If it is not that obvious, then it is a lie which you have an obligation to reveal. There is nothing to be gained by not revealing this.

  • Matt

    I think the real gem is how funny a mocumentary could be documenting abusive work conditions at the North Pole.. A whistleblowing holiday film.. Love it.

  • Mel

    Um, I think the only people who would think it was real based on the previews are the people who ALREADY think alien conspiracies are real and will continue to believe them despite any and all evidence to the contrary–the people who would insist it was a coverup if everyone involved in the film publicly stated that it is not real.

    Everyone else already knows it’s fake. But apparently other movie critics think audiences have no critical skills.

  • JoshDM

    Before The Blair Witch hit theatres, I watched the Sci-Fi Channel special on the item. They even showed a part of the last scene (the corner stare) in the special.

    And it freaked me out so much I ran to the computer to find out whether it was faked, and it wasn’t an easy sleep that night.

    I realized my mistake soon after when I understood I saw something on “The Sci-Fi Channel” and not, say “The Local News” or “Discover Channel”.

  • PJK

    It’s not like they are billing this as a documentary!

  • Scott Christiansen

    Reviewers should actively spoil this film for the audience.

    No because it’s bad. Bad films have a right to exist, too. (But I am thankful for reviewers who help me decide to not attend.)

    The online marketing campaign for the movie was way out of bounds.

    It exploits real-life tragedy for fun.

    That’s just sick, and the people of Noe deserve better.

    Please do not reward the makers of this, reportedly, mediocre film.

    Regards,

    Scott

  • chuck

    They want to substitute the illusion of reality for creativity. If you take the illusion away then whats left?.

  • Hector

    the complexity of the whole ridiculous paranoia is that the topic itself does not follow conventional logic.

  • CB

    Seriously, someone is complaining that reviewers are revealing that there aren’t really tapes showing alien abductees remembering their trauma through hypnotic regression and what not in a small town in Alaska? That the biggest story in human history isn’t being broken by a big movie studio production?

    Ha ha ha ha!

    Oh hey, I have some more spoilers for you! You know that couple in Paranormal Activity? Yeah, not really haunted by a demon! I know, right? It has footage and everything!

    Also, despite “authentic” video evidence to the contrary, the Statue of Liberty was not decapitated by a giant space monster.

    The Blair Witch does not exist in reality, and was in fact made up. Shocking!

    I realize that this movie makes a stronger reality claim than these previous (other than Blair Witch), but seriously… It’s more or less the same premise. If you were planning on walking into this movie “open-minded” about whether or not this movie was telling the truth — not open minded about the existence of aliens, but of this movie showing their actuality — then you’re an idiot, and deserve to have the movie “spoiled”. Maybe thinking about how unfair this was will stimulate some brain cells and they’ll form a few extra connections.

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