Is ‘The Fourth Kind’ Real or Another ‘Blair Witch’ Fake Out?

Milla Jovovich in The Fourth Kind
Photo: Universal Pictures

I saw The Fourth Kind last night and while I’m not allowed to review it until this coming Friday, I did want to talk about it a little bit beforehand and share with you what little information I know.

I hadn’t watched a trailer before going into the film so my only knowledge was that it was about alien abduction in some form or another. I have since watched the trailer (watch it to the right) and the footage of Milla Jovovich explaining what you are about to watch is included at the front of the film and extended. Jovovich portrays psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler and the film includes what is said to be “actual video footage” featuring Tyler’s sessions with patients she places under hypnosis to help them remember things their minds have forced them to forget.

The film is set in Nome, Alaska in the year 2000 and points to several real-life disappearances and attempts to provide evidence to convince you they are as a result of alien abduction. But is the evidence real?

Prior to writing this article I emailed a pair of Universal publicists asking for production notes for The Fourth Kind seeing how none were available online that I could find at either of my official Universal publicity asset locations. Unfortunately neither one of them even bothered to reply. All that is available is something of a one-page fact sheet giving me the following information:

In October 2004, filmmaker Olatunde Osunsanmi had wrapped principal photography on his thriller The Cavern and traveled to North Carolina for postproduction. While there, a chance dinner conversation sparked an interest that would be the genesis of The Fourth Kind.

A colleague told him of a psychologist living in the Carolinas who relocated from a remote town along the Bering Sea. In Alaska, she had conducted a sleep disorder study that revealed terrifying data. What Osunsanmi heard fascinated him…all the more because it was heavily documented. Through his contact, he tracked her down. After some reluctance, she shared her story.

In Fall 2000, the therapist’s patients, under hypnosis, exhibited behaviors that suggested encounters with non humans. Before sleep, every person recalled a white owl outside his or her window. They woke up paralyzed, hearing horrific noises from beyond their doors just before an unknown assailant pulled them screaming from their rooms. Subsequent memories went dark.

As the doctor investigated the phenomenon, she discovered a history of missing people and bizarre activity from the region, dating back to the 1960s. The more she dug, the more she believed the unbelievable: Her patients’ stories were not false memories, but comprehensive evidence of alien abductions.

The “history of missing people” referred to in the final paragraph above is actually addressed in a 2006 article at the Anchorage Daily News saying, “A string of disappearances and mysterious deaths of Native villagers visiting Nome was not the work of a serial killer… An FBI study of 24 missing persons and suspicious death cases assembled by Nome police said excessive alcohol consumption and a harsh winter climate were common ties in many of the cases. In nine of the cases, where no bodies were ever found, state and local investigators said they will continue to search for new leads.”

Of course, it’s the cases where “no bodies were ever found” that Fourth Kind filmmakers are going to point their fingers at, and a similar article from a year earlier does raise some suspicious eyebrows.

The 2005 article comes as a result of the disappearance of Eric Apatiki, 21, and quotes from Delbert Pungowiyi, a tribal council member from Savoonga who had been pushing for an investigation since 1998, and believes more than one person is preying on Natives in Nome.

“People disappear over there and where are the bodies going? Where are the remains going?” Pungowiyi said before calling Nome “a bone yard for the region because there are so many remains there that have never been found. We’re in 2004, 2005 — and it’s still happening.”

As a result of the Apatiki disappearance a prominent Native organization in Nome released a list of 20 such suspicious cases in 2005, along with offers of a reward, in an effort to get help from the public. However, this list has also bubbled back to the surface with the pending release of The Fourth Kind as mentioned at All Business:

No one has heard of the psychologist [Dr. Abigail Tyler], including the state licensing board and president of the state psychologists association. And while there have indeed been disappearances in Nome — mainly people traveling to the hub city from smaller surrounding Inupiat and Siberian Yupik villages — blaming a real-life tragedy on alien abduction is not sitting well with the nonprofit that pushed the cases into the open.

“The movie looks ridiculous,” said Kawerak Inc. Vice President Melanie Edwards, who watched the trailer online Monday. “It’s insensitive to family members of people who have gone missing in Nome over the years.”

Photo: Universal Pictures

The All Business article even quotes the previously mentioned Delbert Pungowiyi when asked about the story told in The Fourth Kind saying, “Oh my god, that is ridiculous.”

There does seem to be the scantest of evidence to support the story despite the fact All Business sources state licensing examiner Jan Mays saying she can’t find records of an Abigail Tyler. A website, which appears to have not paid for its domain name, can still be viewed via Google’s caching services citing an article announcing the death of Dr. William Tyler, Abigail’s husband and one of the catalysts for the story behind The Fourth Kind.

Of course, like the fuzzy “archived” video in the film, the fact this article is actually no longer officially available at a now defunct website paints a pretty sketchy picture, along with a presumed bio for Abigail Tyler at the Alaska Psychiatry Journal whose homepage now reads the following: “This webpage is currently unavailable.” Isn’t it always the way when alien abductions or ghost stories are talked about that something has to go wrong pretty much ruining the entire story?

However, The Fourth Kind isn’t trying to tell you it’s true as much as it’s asking whether you believe. The film’s tagline is their way out reading “It’s Up to You to Decide.” This makes it no different than any ghost story or unexplained phenomenon you may see on The History or Discovery Channels, and how often do you walk away from those believing they’re real?

The Fourth Kind hits theaters this Friday, November 6 and I will have a review early that morning. For now, you can get more on the feature by clicking here.

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