"Shit shit shit shit shit tried to watch 4th kind just now never sleeping again ever ever ever ever had to stop 30 minutes in aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"
I text my friend from the psychological safety under the covers of my bed, cheek to cheek with my unaffected wife who is, unfortunately, rapidly going to sleep.
The phone pings with a response.
"It gets scary after that."
I press my body further into the bed, and the phone pings again.
"There's an owl at your window."
Hackles raised, I curse my evil friend.
Earlier that day, while sitting at my desk, a coworker across the row from me walks up holding a small painting.
"A painting my brother did for school." He flips it around where I can see it better, and I grimace as my breath sucks in sharply.
"Are you serious? No. Fucking. Way. You can't have that here. You know I am terrified!"
The small canvas is almost entirely dark. At its top, a small yellow glow silhouettes a 1950s style flying saucer. It appears very similar to the picture of a UFO hanging in my own cubicle with the words "I WANT TO BELIEVE" underneath. But my playful tribute to Fox Mulder is one thing, this painting another. Underneath the UFO silhouette, a second illuminated circle covers an area of the ground. Just at its edge, in the space between light and darkness, two faint figures stand. Large black eyes, almond shaped, stare directly out of the painting towards me.
My coworker laughs, and positions the painting on his desk so that it is immediately beside my computer screen in my field of view. When he goes to lunch I stand in front of it contemplating how much its destruction will cost me.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, in his book The UFO Experience: a Scientific Inquiry (1972), detailed different levels of encounters with unidentified flying objects. These range from visually sighting a UFO (a close encounter of the first kind) to seeing inhabitants of the UFO in and around it (a close encounter of the third kind). The fourth kind, added later than the first three, refers to actual abduction.
After arriving home from work, collecting the family and running errands, I am standing in the movie section at Walmart. They have put out a wide selection of discount DVDs for Halloween. I see a copy of Re-animator for five dollars. So fun! I pick up and put back Shaun of the Dead, reasoning that I will wait and get it on Blu-ray when it is cheaper. I see several other movies I have decided to watch this October, and start piling them in my arms. Deluxe Edition, uncut, of Friday the 13th, and Paranormal Activity, I grab both and then my hand lingers over The Fourth Kind. I can do this, I think, this is the year I finally watch it. Slowly I place it on top of my pile.
Released in 2009, The Fourth Kind documents the story of psychologist Abigail Tyler during the fall of 2000. As patients in her practice in Nome, Alaska begin reporting similar experiences, Dr. Tyler connects the cases with the recent death of her own husband. Multiple patients in the area report waking up at 3 AM to find a white owl outside their window, but through further questioning reveal that the owl comes inside the house. When pressed even further, patients have difficulty remembering details. In an attempt to discover more about these blocked memories, Dr. Tyler hypnotizes a patient. The patient's composure degrades progressively as memories of the owl shift to something else, something with a putrid, cinnamon smell that speaks in a garbled, unintelligible way.
"What is it? What do you see?" Dr. Tyler asks.
"It is ... the worst thing you can imagine ..." the haunted-eyed man replies.
As a young teen, I often found myself alone in secluded areas. Arrowhead hunting after school, I would lose track of time and then be forced to walk through fields and woods back to the house, or later my car, as night descended around me. Our town had experienced a burst of strange sightings out at the old dump in the 1970s. Some of the older guys, when asked about it, would laugh it off as one of many stories used for "parking" with their dates. I can imagine them suggesting to their date after a game, "Let's drive down by the old dump on the way home. So and so said he saw some strange lights out there other night." But in the dark, walking through the woods below the hill on which the dump was located, I found it difficult to treat the stories so lightly. Especially not after the night I heard the footsteps in the kitchen....
My wife and I are laying on the pallet in the movie room. We are about 30 minutes into the movie, and under the blanket she reaches over to hold my hand reassuringly.
"Your palms are sweaty, are you okay?"
"Tip top," I answer glibly.
On the screen, Dr. Tyler's character has just finished the second hypnosis attempt, resulting in a complete loss of control in the patient due to primal terror. While discussing the results with a colleague, her secretary rushes into the room and hands the recorder she has been transcribing to Dr. Tyler. Replaying the tape, the doctor first hears the notes she had dictated the previous evening, followed by a quiet delay as she fell asleep with the recorder still running. And then, over heavier and heavier breathing, unintelligible words. As she and the colleague look on in horror, terrifying screams erupt from the recorder. The screams are her own.
Later that night, after going to sleep with great difficulty, I come awake to the sound of voices. As soon as I realize I'm no longer dreaming, my body hair electrifies. My nostrils flare, sucking in oxygen for the impending adrenaline rush. I glance at the bedside clock. 3:03 AM. The voices are distorted, fuzzy and electronic out of the monitor connected to our daughter's bedroom. And then they are gone. Just interference, I tell myself, just interference.
I wait in the dark for the sleep that will not come.
This may seem like a strange review of a movie, strange that I did not say more, strange that I reviewed a movie I could not finish. And that itself is the best recommendation I could possibly give for something to watch this Halloween season.
Interviewee: You have to experience this to believe me. I, I, I'm afraid to walk outside, I need help, I don't know how to deal with this, it's so strange. I'm frightened to go to sleep. What if they come back...