The Rite

A story of faith’s victory over skepticism through the supernatural. Michael Kovak is the son of a mortician whose only family directed choice is to be a mortician or become a priest. So he chooses to become a priest to get away from his pain. The only problem is, he doesn’t believe in God. So at the end of seminary when he is about to tender his resignation from his priesthood process, he discovers that if he does, his $100k scholarship will be converted into a loan. His mentor priest offers him the opportunity to get Exorcism training from the Vatican before he decides. The obvious goal is that maybe a face to face encounter with supernatural evil will persuade him of supernatural good.

It’s part of the formula in these supernatural stories for the hero to be a skeptic who can explain away demonic phenomena as psychological manifestations. The battle of worldviews, naturalism and supernaturalism. Well, Michael does explain them away in the presence of unorthodox yet experienced exorcist, Father Lucas, an old man who overcame his own youthful skepticism the same way. But when the possessed victims start telling him secrets and knowledge that only spirits could know of his past, of things said in secret, and of his own dreams, Michael becomes conflicted.

The spiritual manifestations in this movie are more realistic than a standard horror movie about demons. These are not so much special effects, but more about oddities like frogs showing up, or speaking in strange voices and other languages. Some body contortions and such, but not of the Exorcist variety. In fact, there’s even a line in the movie that Lucas gives Michael when confronted with the relatively unimpressive display of possession, “what did you expect, spinning heads and pea soup?” But there is one terror that is deeper than any shock scare: The demons do know your sins, your dark secrets that haunt you with pain. Thus, the perfect metaphor of fighting one’s inner demons is captured by the external fight with real demons.

There is another line that Lucas says to Michael that captures the theme about spiritual reality versus secular skepticism: “Choosing not to believe in the devil won’t protect you from him.” Other lines that carry a surprising strong Christian understanding to the worldview of this movie: “The terror is real. You won’t defeat it unless you believe.” And this bears out when Michael is faced with his ultimate challenge: Father Lucas is possessed by a demon named Baal (like the Canaanite deity in the Old Testament) and Michael must now cast him out. But how can a man so weak in faith, fight an entity so strong? A note written to Michael when he was young echoes in his mind, “You are not alone. He is always with you.” Michael then names the demon, adjures him in the name of the Father, the creator and casts him out in the name of Jesus. I have not heard the name of Jesus uttered in such a positive way in a movie in a looooooong time. So the storytellers don’t hide the connection of the power of the cross of Jesus Christ over these demons. Impressive and faith affirming.

So Michael discovers faith in the face of true spiritual evil and becomes a priest, affirming the thing he once rejected.

Skyline

Low budget Sci-fi action rip off of Independence Day meets Cloverfield. A group of friends and acquaintances seek to stay alive when Los Angeles is invaded by alien space ships who seek out all humans to suck their brains out for energy. This movie seems to illustrate the emptiness and lack of meaning that many young filmmakers have. They come up with a “cool” idea about aliens invading and a “cool” visual chase film about survival, only to fall apart narratively at the end, which seems to reflect their own lack of depth or meaning to draw from in their own worldview. If they are taught there is no real transcendent meaning, then they have nothing to really say in their stories.

In this case, the hero and heroine, after spending an hour and a half trying with futility to stay free from the invaders, are finally sucked up into a big space ship, only to discover that the aliens are using human brains to feed on and in some cases inhabit their dying bodies. So, the hero’s brain becomes a part of some alien who then recognizes the heroine about to be eaten alive, and he then saves her from being chomped — for the moment. And that’s how it ends. What the…? In the trailers to the movie, they showed TV news clips (not in the movie that I remember) that editorialized that this invasion must be how the Indians felt when the bad evil Europeans invaded their land and took it over. A movie that starts out with a politically correct theme of anti-colonialism, ends up fizzling like a kid who started out real excited making up a story and then ran out of steam near the end when he realized he hadn’t thought it through to the end.

Paranormal Activity 2

In this found footage horror sequel, we see a clever new version of the first story, but set as a prequel/sequel. In other words, this story starts before the first movie in time, intersects with it and finishes after it. This is the story of the first movie’s Katie’s sister, Kristi, who becomes plagued by a demon just as her sister was. It turns out they had occult problems in their family past and though they are separated by 60 miles or so, there are demons who want Kristi’s son as some kind of ransom to stop a curse on their family. That is how the two stories are tied together. When the demon possesses Katie in the first movie and she leaves, she is going to Kristi’s house to help get the little boy.

The new gimmick in this found footage story is that they put up security cameras around the house and so we are able to see a multiple angle cut version of the story, rather than one single camera as in the first movie.

The worldview of this story is confused and incoherent. The spiritual idea in the first movie was that Micah and Katie reject the power of the cross of Christ before they are overtaken by the demon. The idea being that when you reject God, you have no spiritual power or authority to fight demonic evil. So in this movie, Kristi’s husband actually does the opposite; he finds a cross and uses it on Kristi’s demon possessed head to exorcise her. And it works! And we see the flip side redemption of the lost redemption in the first movie. But then the problem occurs when, after this apparent victory, Katie shows up possessed by her demon and kills both Kristi and her husband and takes the boy. So, the very spiritual source of power over evil is first shown to provide victory and then winds up being useless in a contradictory and incoherent ending to the story.

Let Me In

American remake of the superior Danish vampire movie, “Let the Right One In.” Story of a shy, sensitive and withdrawn young 12 year old boy, Owen, who unwittingly becomes good friends with a 12 year old girl vampire, Abby. Abby has just moved into the neighborhood with her dad, an older man who goes out to kill innocent young people and drain their blood for his vampire daughter to drink. Meanwhile, Owen is bullied by an increasingly violent older kid at school. Of course Owen doesn’t know Abby is a vampire at first but they become fast friends and her strange actions become more apparent to Owen.

The name of the film is the heart of the theme of this moral tale about the seduction and temptation of evil in our lives. The notion is that a vampire cannot enter the victim’s home dwelling unless she is invited in. Otherwise, she will die. So by the time Owen discovers Abby is this evil monster (he even calls his estranged dad to ask him is there real evil), he is already very fond of her, “going steady” and finds it hard to stomach her need for feasting, but finds it even harder to say goodbye to her. He is drawn to her. He is seduced by her sweetness toward him. There is no sexual aspect brought into this film, which keeps it on track thematically. There are several times where she is called “Sweetheart” or “Sweetie” by several people illustrating how sweet and innocent evil can come disguised into our lives. Is not Satan disguised as an Angel of Light? So, we are responsible for accepting the seduction of sin for a season.

So when Owen wants to see what happens to Abby if she is not asked into his home, she starts to bleed and die. He quickly yells out “you can come in!” to stop it. This is the point where Own has allowed his moral senses to be dulled by the friendliness of the temptation. He has stepped over the line. She has been so good to him, he can’t bear to see her in pain. And isn’t that exactly how all evil seduces us? It’s always “greyed” so that we blind ourselves to its true nature. She’s been a friend to him when no one else has, she’s taught him to stick up for himself with the bully, she’s even tried to share his candy with him, which causes her to vomit since vampires can’t eat candy of course.

It takes place in the 1980s and we see on the TV a news clip of Ronald Reagan talking about fighting evil by the power of Jesus Christ. Owen’s mother prays to Jesus Christ before their meals. Is this some kind of religious reference? Often, this is done to make political statements, but in interviews the director has indicated that it was not a political statement so much as a dealing with a state of mind in that era where the notion of evil being outside the United States instead of inside of us. So the movie deals with evil as an essence within us that takes us over.

By the end of the film, Abby’s father has died and so she needs someone to take over his task of providing blood. Owen takes that place as we see him traveling with her box that she sleeps inside. So Owen has embraced the dark side in this coming of age story, a demonic Romeo and Juliet that illustrates the subtle seduction of evil within us and how we succumb willingly and end up justifying the evil that we do.

Devil

Christian morality tale. This movie starts with a creative interesting open of establishing shots of the city – all of them upside down. No fancy effects, but it really sets the feel for what you are about to see – this is going to turn your worldview upside down.

It’s basically the story of five people trapped in an elevator in a business building and someone or something is killing them one by one. The protagonist is actually a cop on the outside trying to figure it all out as everyone is doing everything they can to free the people. The cop has his own “inner demons” as he works through his inability to forgive a kid who accidentally killed his family in a car accident. Thriller elements: the sound in the elevator is broken so the security can only talk to the people in the elevator, but cannot hear them, no pens to write on paper for the cameras and the cameras are too low resolution to see driver’s licenses. And of course cell phones won’t work here either. So the cop seeks to find out who each person is and to determine which one is killing each of them as the lights go out.

The cop soon discovers each of the trapped persons have records of crime, theft, lying, swindling or stealing. Not big crimes, but this movie reminds me of Phone Booth, in that it makes the point that there are no “little white sins.” We are responsible for every wrong we commit against others. The reason why each character is being taken by the devil is because they do not admit their evil. They do not accept the responsibility for the consequences of their life choices. This movie incarnates the very Bible verse put on the first screen of the movie:

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8)

Devil is an incarnate parable of this Bible verse. It begins with Catholic folk religion through a religious Mexican character telling the story. He tells of how his grandma would tell a story of the devil becoming flesh to make people face the consequences of their choices in life. And of course, that is what is happening in this story. At one point the religious character tells the unbelieving cop, “Everyone believes in the devil a little. Even those who say they don’t.” At the end of the movie, the last thing the storyteller says is that his grandma would tell him, “Don’t worry (about all the scary stuff of the devil), it only proves that if there is a devil, there has to be a God.” By the time it all starts making sense to the cop, he asks the religious character, “hypothetically speaking, if your story is true, how does one get out of it?” In other words, how do we find redemption? And then we see the last character facing the devil and confessing his sin and guilt toward others whose lives he destroyed. We hear an amazingly non-humanist biblical line that “no one is good,” none of us. The devil then tells him that’s not enough to save him, it won’t make up for all the evil he did in life. To which he replies, “I know.” He accepts damnation as justice for the wrongs he has done in life, and that such moral crimes MUST be paid for with blood. This is no easy humanist “forgiveness” without consequence. In Christianity, this is called “repentance”. It’s a change of mind that acknowledges one’s own guilt and our inability to pay for that guilt apart from our own damnation.

But then something amazing happens. With the last person dying in his arms, this “self-admitted” guilty character tells the Devil three times (making thematic emphasis) to “take me instead” of her, “because I deserve it.” This is of course substitutionary atonement, a distinctly Christian concept.

Substitutionary atonement is the doctrine that Jesus Christ died in the place of sinners in order to pay the penalty for their sins so they would not go to hell. Kinda like dying in the electric chair in the place of a capital criminal. The guy is not trying to be his own Christ, I think the filmmaker is making a veiled reference to Christ’s dying in our place because he knows that the Hollywood censors would not allow clear Christian faith in movies. (the other possibility is that the filmmaker is a religious humanist who wants to have Christian ideas without Christ, but this seems less likely since there are veiled references to Christianity all throughout. Although one piece of evidence that the filmmaker is not deeply familiar with the Christian faith is that he quotes the Bible verse at the beginning about the devil like a roaring lion, but gets the citation wrong. He puts it as “Peter 5:8, instead of 1 Peter 5:8.). At one point, the religious character starts praying a Spanish prayer into the intercom that I would like to know what he is actually saying. That might enlighten the meaning or theme.

The themes in this movie reflect a Christian worldview: The reality of the devil and damnation, forgiveness, confession, repentance, and accepting of one’s guilt for the choices we make, and redemption through confession and repentance and forgiveness, along with substitutionary atonement. I would make one caveat: Shyamalan worked on the story, but another person wrote it and another person directed it, so I am not sure how much Shyamalan’s own worldview comes into play here. But one possible interpretation may be that Shyamalan has a Hindu universalist type religious heritage, so he may be trying to subvert American faith by using our western cultural symbols like the Devil and other Christian notions to communicate his own idea of Karma. Though there are no references to past lives in the story there is a reference to the idea that we are responsible for everything that comes our way in life as consequences for our choices. But even here, reaping what we sow is also a Biblical idea.

The Last Exorcist

This movie is a particular genre that I enjoy for its prophetic edge. I call it Found Footage Horror. It’s the idea that the movie we are watching was the footage that was shot by someone making a documentary about something very dangerous that leads to their demise. The Blair Witch Project was the first (and still among the best), Paranormal Activity was the biggest money making movie in history and was this genre. And now The Last Exorcism.

The story is that these kids are making a documentary of an exorcist who has lost his faith and become more of a secular humanist. He used to fake exorcisms for people in order to help rid them of inner “demons” they naively thought were real, but from his view were simply manifestations of psychological problems. The exorcist’s name is Cotton Marcus, an obvious reference to Cotton Mather, infamous Puritan of the Salem witch trials. So Cotton is going to show us how he fakes the exorcisms because he has decided to stop engaging in them, due to someone dying in the midst of an exorcism. He is giving it all up in order to be more consistent with his secular humanism.

The only problem is that the subject of this last exorcism, Nell, is really possessed by a real demon. Only Cotton doesn’t know it because even when she manifests he is able to explain away her behavior as disturbed psychosis due to an incestuous relationship with her father. This movie explores the nature of blindness that a secular worldview can have when confronted with spiritual reality. The idea is that we are limited in understanding reality by our presuppositions and philosophical categories. If our worldview precludes any possibility of the supernatural, well then, if we are faced with the real supernatural, no matter how convincing it is, our worldview will explain away that reality in terms of our own categories and limited language and definitions. Thus, all “demons” are simply mental illness or psychological expressions.

So when the filmmakers discover at the very end that it was all real demonic possession, it is too late, and they are destroyed by the very evil they thought they could “expose” as fake. This is a movie about hubris, and how we are incapable of defeating evil if we do not have a proper understanding of it, and how we will be defeated by that evil for our willful ignorance of pride. It skewers the modernist pride of empirical “knowledge,” the hubris of Enlightenment scientism, the folly of materialism. It is a Christian morality tale in the extreme.

I love this genre because I think it embodies the new world of digital filmmaking where anyone can make a movie and we don’t need millions of dollars and big studio sets and cameras. We just need a great story and some good directing and acting. Also, with YouTube and Facebook etc. everyone is a filmmaker, putting up their little videos of their lives. This genre embodies that notion as well as the postmodern play with reality that much art is currently engaged in. There is no music soundtrack usually (Where it is used in this movie, it does not work) and the “real people with their personal cameras” technique is one more way to enhance the suspension of disbelief so necessary for a good movie to reach in and grab you. It carries a sense of reality one step beyond traditional moviemaking. Another aspect is the general lack of big special effects or “movie-like” sensational visuals. It is the illusion that this really happened, so the moment you see anything that smacks of Hollywood filmmaking, you are taken out of the movie. Where The Last Exorcism fails is precisely where it uses some special effects to show the demon and create an “inhuman” fetus birth. At that moment everyone pretty much sighs and the movie is ruined, unlike Blair Witch, which retained that sense of mystery to the end, giving you a creepy feeling of reality.

The Wolfman

A remake of the original Lon Chaney Jr. movie. Lawrence Talbot, son of a nobleman comes back home for his brother’s funeral, only to discover a wolfman is the murderer of his brother. When Talbot gets bit and becomes a wolfman himself, he realizes the original guilty party is his father. The worldview of this film is Romantic and in this sense is the direct opposite of Sherlock Holmes, which elevated the Enlightenment notion of science and reason as ultimate knowledge. This movie portrays science as incapable of understanding some things about human nature. The occult nature of the beast is reduced to neurosis by a scientific establishment that engages in bizarre practices itself like water immersion in icewater and other forms now considered to be torture. This is common fare in Romantic stories, where science is arrogant and seeks to naturalize everything, and in so doing misunderstands the truth. “We have made enormous strides in the scientific treatment of delusions,” says the lead scientist as he takes the wolfman into a doctor’s circle for analysis on a full moon. They think he will face his own delusion, but in fact, the scientists face theirs as they are attacked by the wolfman.

In this story, the comparison is made between father and son. A policeman states, “Rules. They’re all that keeps us from a dog eat dog world.” So civilization is what tames the beast within man. But the father has accepted the “beast within” as natural. “It is a mistake to lock up the beast. Let him run free. Kill or be killed.” This is obviously a cruel viewpoint in the film. It leads to death and destruction. Civilization must keep the beast at bay, must punish the monsters.

When the lover of the wolfman realizes he is the monster, she says, “If its true, then everything is magic, and God…” The obvious implication seems to be that there is no God if it is true. I have no idea where that idea comes from other than an agenda of the writers to deny God. Anyway, the theme is stated at the end narration “It is said that there is no sin in killing a beast rather than killing a man. But where does one begin and the other end?” I’m not sure what this means either, as it has the smell of attempting to sound profound, but actually fails to really mean anything at all. If it is a challenge to be careful about restraining evil with too heavy a hand, then it fails because the rest of the story proves that we should kill evil. But maybe it’s a challenge that we think we are different from the animals, but man is the most dangerous predator after all.

A glaring hole occurs when in the beginning the Gypsy lady says that a wolfman can only be saved by someone who loves him. But at the end, when the Wolfman is about to kill his lover as he is in the form of a beast, he begins to realize his connection with her, but then loses attention and starts to kill her. She shoots him dead and he thanks her for doing so. I cannot see how this is love “saving” the wolfman, other than maybe love will not accept evil and will fight it even in a loved one. So that true redemption comes from facing the consequences of evil rather than being ignored by loved ones. I am reminded here of the serial killers whose moms continue to believe in their sons rather than turn them in or support their execution. So maybe this is about tough love, NOT accepting the beast within, and killing it if it is destructive.

Legion

A supernatural thriller about a renegade angel and a handful of patrons at a rural diner who battle a legion of angels to protect the birth of a new messiah. Or at least I think that’s what it kind of was. This movie has a confusing worldview that I am not sure the filmmakers even understand. It utilizes traditional Judeo-Christian concepts of angels, God’s judgment and spiritual warfare and weds it to a capricious God more like fickle pagan Mesopotamian deities than like Yahweh of the Bible.

Michael, evidently “falls” from heaven and cuts off his own wings because he is rebelling against God. Why? Because God is sending his legions of angels to judge mankind just like he did with the Great Flood, but Michael is portrayed as having more love for mankind and faith in their goodness than God himself. As Michael says, “God lost faith in man. I didn’t.” In fact this phrase or something like it is spoken multiple times throughout the film. The word faith becomes a key phrase used over and over. Someone says, “I lost faith in God,” and Michael responds, “And God’s lost faith in you.” “The last time God lost faith in man, he sent a flood.” It’s as if God is on the level of humans having faith in something beyond himself.

So, Somehow a new messiah is going to be born to a little waitress in a podunk town (just like Jesus), but God has changed his mind and wants to kill the human race instead of saving them, and start over. And he has to start with killing the new messiah, so he sends his angels to kill the Anointed One to be born (like Herod slaughtering the innocents to kill Jesus). This confusing contradictory mess of a worldview is compounded by the expressly stated theme that bookends the beginning and end of the movie: “Why is God so mad at his children? I don’t know I think he just got tired of all the bullshit.” In this story, God appears to be a tiresome, angry, vengeful bully as opposed to a righteous judge and king.

When Michael fights the angel Gabriel (who has remained faithful to God’s commands) Michael is killed, but then somehow is resurrected with his wings (what the…?) to fight Gabriel again, and decides to let Gabriel live, something Gabriel admits he would not have done (being a vengeful unforgiving angel that he is). Then Michael tells Gabriel that Gabriel was wrong to obey God: “You gave him what he asked for. I gave him what he needed” [in protecting the new messiah and forgiving wicked humanity]. So again, Michael is more “compassionate” more “wise” than God or Gabriel, his faithful angel — as if there is some higher goodness than God.

So, a mere angel, Michael, loves mankind more than God does; God is impetuous, impatient and impertinent; the good angels act like demons (they possess people and turn them into demonic killers with black eyes and fangs). Legion is a story that subverts the Judeo-Christian narrative and makes God and his angels the villains, and the rebel angel the hero (remember the other rebel angel, Lucifer?). The worldview of Legion is essentially Humanism that believes mankind is good and God is a violent destructive concept to society.

Twilight: New Moon

In this Twilight series sequel, Bella, having fallen in love with a vampire, is now falling in love with a werewolf. What a dilemma for this love triangle. Should I love forever the vampire I cannot be with or the werewolf right beside me? Seriously though, first let me address the underlying myth that this shares with the first movie. We have a world in which the Cullen “family” are “good” vampires who seek to do good and abstain from their human bloodlust, as opposed to “bad” vampires who do kill humans. But all vampires are sworn to a code that dictates they never reveal themselves to humans or they will be executed by the vampire council in Italy. Now, we have werewolves who are not evil, but essentially good, and whose purpose is evidently, NOT to kill humans but to kill vampires. So in this mythology, werewolves only accidentally hurt humans if they get upset and their animal nature takes over.

I don’t know a lot about Mormonism, not being one myself, but I understand that the original author is a Mormon, which brings some clarity to the underlying worldview of the story. As I understand it, in Mormonism, redemption is ultimately achieved through moral living. People can redeem themselves by doing good deeds that outweigh their bad deeds. In other words, vampires CAN suppress their evil nature and be good. This is why Bella replies to a comment about evil nature, “It’s not what you are, it’s what you do.” This is opposed to, for example, the Judeo-Christian view of human nature that what we are results in what we do. Orthodox Christianity claims that no matter how many good deeds we do, they cannot cancel out our evil nature, which ultimately condemns us. Redemption is therefore found in having our nature changed by spiritual rebirth not suppression of our evil drives. The reason why Edward won’t “turn” Bella into a vampire and therefore be together forever is because when you do so, you lose your soul and are damned. This is when Bella disagrees and tells Edward, “You couldn’t be damned, it’s impossible.” He does too much good as a “good” vampire. “It’s not what you are, it’s what you do.”

The big obvious metaphor that we are hit over the head with in the movie is Romeo and Juliet. We see Bella and Edward studying the play, and watching a movie version of it in class. And Edward can recite the dramatic sacrificial love lines from heart. And of course, this becomes their own dilemma, as Edward wants to have the vampire council kill him, once he thinks Bella is dead. She becomes his only reason for “living.” And then, when Bella saves him from the vampire council by saying “kill me, not him,” she shocks them all that a human would do this in love for a vampire. The whole thing is a reflection of the cross-cultural love story of Romeo and Juliet.

I believe that the reason why this series of stories is so popular with women is because it focuses on relationships affected by this struggle of human nature. Another element of Mormonism that seems to connect with middle America is it’s traditional values. Here is a story that depicts strong men with violent natures (both the vampire and the werewolf in love with Bella), suppressing that nature and turning it into positive redeeming protection of the woman. Maybe this is a kind of backlash to the emasculated men of modernity. Edward is erudite and educated, but his drawing power is in how he sublimates his primal drive for Bella’s sake. He would rather give up his eternity than let her become defiled. He protects her virginity. Even when she decides to become a vampire, he says he will help her do so, only on the condition that she marry him. This is NOT your average male mook, moron, or stud depicted in most advertising and entertainment. And Jacob, the werewolf, who falls in love with Bella, is a beefy mechanic earthy guy who also sublimates his own nature to let Bella in and to protect her (I heard the women in the theater breathe out sighs of joy when he takes off his shirt – I kid you not). These are all the negative stereotypes of the male in our culture that are subverted in the story into positive examples of strong powerful males rescuing, protecting, and providing for the heroine female. This is traditional moral values on the roles of male and female subverting modern notions.

SIDE NOTE: Something struck me that I didn’t catch in the first movie. This notion of the vampires shining like diamonds when out in the sunlight seemed a strange new idea to me, and I wondered where it came from. As I understand it, Mormonism believes in polytheism, that there are many gods. A Bible chapter they point to is John 10 where Jesus quotes Psalm 82 in saying, “Have I not said, you are gods?” But in Psalm 82, it talks about a council of “gods” that God sits amidst, also called “sons of God.” The problem is that the Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim, which has different meanings in different contexts. While orthodox Christianity understands elohim in that passage as divine beings (such as angels), Mormons consider them actual gods, and examples of what all humans can become. But here’s the kicker. An orthodox Christian scholar of ancient Near Eastern languages, Michael Heiser (thedivinecouncil.com), has made an argument that another verse in Psalm 82 describes these sons of God as “falling like the shining ones [‘princes”].” This is also linked to a famous Bible passage, Isaiah 14, believed to be talking about Lucifer, the fallen angel, “O star of the morning, shining one [son of the dawn].” Again, Christians would see this as divine beings such as angels, while Mormons would consider them as actual deities. Maybe this is too speculative, but it appears that the Mormon author is casting the preternatural beings of vampires, as elohim, gods, shining ones. Some are fallen, some seek to do good. At one point in the movie, Bella goes to Italy and the council of elohim, I mean vampires, actually meets somewhere in or around the Pantheon, the oldest building in Rome, which was a pagan temple to the gods (plural, as in vampires?).

The Fourth Kind

A pseudo-docudrama that tries to document strange occurrences of alien abduction that may explain the unusually high number of deaths and disappearances of residents in Nome, Alaska. This is a postmodern movie that really takes the fiction/non-fiction blur to the next level. Whereas, Paranormal Activity plays the fake reality game of Blair Witch and Cloverfield, the “found footage” genre, that we all know is not real, but we pretend it is so it makes it seem scarier. But The Fourth Kind creates fake documentary footage and then tells us through the lead actress, Milla Jovavich AS Milla Jovavich and the director as himself that this is a movie that is recreating real documentary research by a real psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler (similar to an episode of Unsolved Mysteries). The director then juxtaposes “real documentary” footage of interviews next to the re-enactment with the actors to give the illusion that this really really happened and they are just re-enacting it. Wow, talk about taking the postmodern notion of everything being fiction to the next level. This movie lies to the audience in telling us this is a re-enactment and these are real tapes that they based their movie on. So it is a fiction of a fiction, a story of a story.

TFK uses all the formulaic elements of alien encounters that have been claimed to be true since the 1940s, assuming the classification used by Spielberg with his Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Only the Fourth Kind is not mere contact, but abduction, complete with butt probes and aliens with big owl eyes. But since they use the “found footage” documentary style, it becomes a focus on story over effects that we have come to be oversaturated with through the Spielberg phenomenon. This is another element that makes it seem more “real” is that it is not splashy or having any real effects. So this is all about what we do NOT see versus what we do see. In fact, even the videotaped abduction scenes become visually distorted (though strangely, not the audio ☺) due to the presence of the alien psychically in the body of the abuductee.

What I found most interesting was that the movie uses the cliché “Chariots of the Gods” ancient astronauts theory that the gods of prescientific cultures like the Sumerians, were simply aliens from space misinterpreted as “gods.” We are told of the hieroglyphs of the Sumerians that show rocketships and astronauts with breathing apparatuses, all the usual old crap. And during one taped sequence we discover that the beings that are taped entering Milla’s room speak in the ancient Sumerian dialect in “non-human” voices (are you following? – the Sumerians – the first writers of words, were taught language by these aliens). And the rough translations are incomplete and can only catch words like “Our creation… destroy,” and lastly and most importantly, “I am God.” Milla is shown praying to Jesus at the very beginning of the movie. Yet apart from these two ambiguous moments, NOT A SINGLE REFERENCE is made at all to the supernatural.

I am not sure if the filmmaker is aware of it or not, but everything that occurred, including the alien abduction moments of levitation and jerking around, Ancient PAGAN Sumerian voices, the alien language of claiming to be God, are all elements of demon possession. It’s almost as if he entirely missed a great twist that this is not alien abduction but demon possession. I say this because there is not a word of consideration in the entire movie that this could be supernatural, so I think he may not have realized that these are classic symptoms of demon possession. Instead he opts out for a mysterious ending of unexplained phenomenon under audio tapes of allegedly real UFO sightings. Great potential for a unique perspective on a cliché subject squandered with a dissatisfying ending of mystery.