Non-movie review movie reviews by a guy who likes weird movies. Plus a free lesson in demonology.
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who liked the movie Paranormal Activity, and those who liked (and actually saw) its current counterpart and competition, The Fourth Kind. I’ve yet to find a critic who thought they were both great movies. Paranormal Activity is the highly buzzed about, surprise blockbuster which has received mainly positive reviews from critics- an independent thriller filmed on a $15,000 budget.
Then there’s The Fourth Kind. A multi-million dollar movie that combines side-by-side glossy professional reenactments next to the “real” footage interviews of “real” people. And the critics aren’t impressed.
But I am.
Conveniently, my wife and I saw both movies over the weekend, back-to-back. I punch people in the face that give away movie endings or essential plotlines. So there’s no fear in reading this that I will do that. I also hate the clichéd term “spoiler alert” which is yet another reason not to give away anything good about these movies.
To truly explain why The Fourth Kind is so great, I first have to clarify why Paranormal Activity is so awful. Paranormal Activity is in essence a movie I saw 10 years ago; evidently enough time has passed that I should have forgotten about The Blair Witch Project by now. I can safely say that anyone who has seen one has seen the other.
The few minor scary moments are overshadowed by the overwhelming feeling I had as I left the theatre, thinking, “That was it? I could have made that myself. That was so pointless. What a waste of my time and money…”
Paranormal Activity seemed like a good idea: A night-vision camera films a couple as they sleep, as they hope to spot the demonic creature that haunts them (makes noises) at night. The thing is, the thought of anyone watching over another person in their sleep is creepy anyway. I know I wouldn’t want to watch what I do in my own sleep.
Ironically, besides the demon, the other creepy creatures watching over the couple in their sleep are the viewers in the movie theatre themselves.
If the movie is indeed scary, that’s all it’s got going for it: Watching people toss and turn in their sleep, waiting for a demon to show up and maybe stand over the girl, possibly whispering things in her ear.
The reason my wife and I decided to see the movie in the first place was because of friends who warned us, “Don’t go see it! It’s demonic. I’ve had nightmares since I’ve watched it…” After hearing that a few times, nothing could inspire us more to go watch it.
But after seeing Paranormal Activity, I am confident that The Wizard of Oz is freakier than this one. Flying monkeys win any day over an invisible demon banging on the walls downstairs in the living room.
Something I think is funny about Paranormal Activity is that it mixes the ideology of demons with zombies. From all accounts I’ve ever read concerning demon possession, a possessed person does not try to kill other people who aren’t possessed. They try to harm themselves, but not commit murder. Demons are looking for a place to dwell in, not a body to kill. That’s my take, based on what Jesus said in Matthew 12:
“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself and they go in and live there… (43-45).”
I’ll put it this way, if a person’s idea of a good comedy TV show is Two and Half Men (which ratings prove that millions do), then there’s a good chance they would think Paranormal Activity is the epitome of horror movies.
And now for the underdog. The Fourth Kind focuses on the clients of Dr. Abigail Taylor, who hypnotizes her “alien abducted” clients into revealing the traumatic events that their minds are not allowing them to remember. They all have the same re-occurring nightmares and remnants of memories involving an owl that visits them in the night.
One of the most terrifying parts of this movie is when the abductees, under hypnosis, try to explain what happened to them. The terror on their faces says it all. And their screams.
The other part of this movie that really stands out to me is when one of the “alien’s” voices is recorded on a tape recorder. The language it speaks in is Sumerian (modern day Iran), which is one of the world’s oldest languages, dating back hundreds of years before Christ.
Interestingly, and this is one of the major reasons I’m fascinated by this movie, when they find a translator to decode what the “alien” said on the tape, the message is actually demonic: “I… am… God.” He also claims to be “savior”. What is misdiagnosed as alien abduction is actually demonic visits/possession.
Another hint of this demonic slant appears when one of the hypnotized abductees describes the re-occurring owl dream as “the ultimate feeling of hopelessness”. That’s a spiritual issue. Especially when combined the “alien’s” statements of ultimate deity.
I admit that if I wasn’t solid in my spiritual beliefs, this movie would keep me up at night (and possibly Paranormal Activity as well). The Bible makes it very clear that a person has put their trust in Jesus as their eternal hope, believing in Him to forgive them for their lifetime of spiritual debt, they will be inhabited by the Holy Spirit- therefore making it impossible for a demon spirit to dwell inside. The New Testament is full of stories about people who were possessed by demons, but none of them knew Jesus at that point.
And the biological half-brother of Jesus wrote in the book of James: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. (2:19)”
In the Bible demons were cast out of people by using the name of Jesus and they shuddered at the fearful thought of him. I am inhabited by his Holy Spirit. So why in the world would I be afraid of a demon trying to inhabit me? It’s fascinating. It’s creepy. But I’m not worried it will happen to me.
There’s obviously spiritual warfare to deal with, but that’s a completely different story. That’s not possession; that’s moral combat.
The Fourth Kind is a meatball of sci-fi. It’s like putting all these things in a blender: Unsolved Mysteries, The X-Files, conversations with my Haitian dorm mate (who grew up in a village with witch doctors), LOST, Dateline, and the movie Insomnia.
It’s a pass/fail formula. For me, it works is because it was able to truly suspend my belief. It was completely entertaining. And at least for my wife and me, it was very thought provoking. Enough that we’re planning to see it again this weekend. I call it original, smart, truly frightening, sci-fi spiritual, trippy, and disturbing.
On the downside, I have trouble figuring out whether the acting is either really good or really bad. Plus it’s a movie that’s supposed to be about alien abduction but it’s really about demon possession and this is never addressed in the movie. And most importantly, I’m pretty sure the “real” footage is fake. But it doesn’t really bother me. Because this movie is effective, at least for the 15% of the critics who gave it positive reviews.
Aside from demons, something both Paranormal Activity and The Fourth Kind have in common is the lack of blood and violence. The secret to the scare of both of these thrillers is seeing terror through the victims. Not the beast itself. And that’s unusual in a movie genre crowded with slasher and torture films.
It all comes down to this question: What’s scarier? For a person to lose their life by a killer they can see, or to lose their soul by one that’s invisible?