By Landon Evanson
The authenticity surrounding the bulk of the on-screen events presented in The Fourth Kind have been, to steal one from Dana Scully, debunked. Compelling though as they were, lead actress Milla Jovovich stated at the beginning of the film, “In the end, what you believe is yours to decide.”
What I choose to believe is that The Fourth Kind is terrifyingly well done, a belief only enhanced by a relatable moment that left me chilled to the bone. Though I believe in the existence of extraterrestrials (the universe is simply too vast to think that we’re alone), my personal connection to the picture has nothing to do with an abduction claim.
No, it comes down to nightmares of the worst variety. Those that infiltrate the mysterious purgatory that exists between sleep and wakefulness, when you’re aware that you’re dreaming and want to rise to escape whatever terror lays before you, but simply cannot. You feel paralyzed, desperate to get away, but movement proves impossible. Worse, screams cannot slip the clutches of your throat. All you can muster are low moans as though your mouth refuses to open, and the part of your mind that is conscious can hear them distinctly as it races to assess why your body refuses to cooperate.
Eventually you rouse from your slumber, but never before the tax of momentary, confused panic that feels like hours subsides, and you remind yourself that it was just a dream.
“Please be advised, that some of what you’re about to see is extremely disturbing.”
If only Jovovich had said see and hear.
The first time I sat down to watch The Fourth Kind was a mistake in every way. Though incredibly fatigued, sleep had been a struggle and that night was no different. Rather than lay in bed and stare at the ceiling, however, I decided to pop in the DVD that I’d rented. It was one in the morning, and about halfway through the flick I remember thinking that if the power went out at that exact moment, incontinence was a guarantee.
Petrified tales recounted under hypnosis and incredibly convincing “footage” of alien activity caught on police dash cam were pure nightmare fuel, but it was when Dr. Abbey Tyler (Jovovich) began to analyze the mysterious sounds that she’d unwittingly captured on a tape recorder that The Fourth Kind struck home.
It wasn’t Tyler’s sketchy memories or the trail her fingernails had left on the bedroom floor as she was ripped from her sanctuary, but rather the moment in her sleepy middle ground when she realized there was something outside her door that was about to invade. What Jovovich uttered from her throat began as a deep, guttural moan before growing into a full wail. I bolted up from my prone position because I recognized that moan. It was the same sound I had heard myself make countless times when I’d been incapable of releasing my own nightmarish screams.
My eyes widened at the sound, and the hairs on my neck stood on end as I sat up in bed and pressed pause, heart pounding within my chest. I wondered if I’d heard correctly or it was my own weary imagination and experiences interfering with what I was witnessing, so I skimmed back and watched it again. And again. And again.
The subject matter of The Fourth Kind, though horrifying, was foreign to me, but in mere seconds I’d been enveloped within its proverbial beam of light and rendered helpless, completely immersed in its reality, if only for a moment. I finished the film sitting on the edge of my bed, wide awake. When the sun rose later that morning, sleep had not come for a visit. What I’d seen and heard was “extremely disturbing.”
Each time that special brand of nightmare creeps back into my world, leaving me frightened and unaware of who or what may be standing or crouching or crawling in my room; it’s only a matter of moments before the sound emitted from Jovovich cascades through my mind.
“In the end, what you believe is yours to decide.”
What I decided then and believe now, is that what we encounter in dreams is ours to endure alone, but paralyzing nightmares are a shared experience.