Astronomer J. Allen Hynek worked on the legendary Project Blue Book for the government, and then spent decades independently researching UFO phenomena. Considered the father of scientific UFO research, he became convinced by evidence from reliable sources, particularly trained military pilots, that the automatic dismissal of UFO sightings was highly unscientific. Hynek also insisted that he did not believe UFOs were alien spacecraft, vigorously asserting that the entire point was not to believe one way or the other, but to follow the evidence wherever it might lead. Today he is perhaps best remembered for formulating a classification system of UFO sightings, what he called “close encounters.” The kinds of close encounter were: visual observation of a UFO, physical effects of a UFO, and contact with the UFO. That third kind is the source of the title of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. After Hynek, others tacked on an additional kind, “the fourth kind,” which they defined as abduction.
A film called The Fourth Kind is slated for a November release and just released its trailer (seen below). The film has no connection with Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but is clearly relying on the name association, unless it is being solely targeted at those of us hyper geeks who have committed the Hynek scale to memory.
Although nominally dealing with aliens and spacecraft, UFO fiction isn’t sci-fi so much as a particular strain of horror, its progenitors not Asimov and Heinlein, but Lovecraft. The Fourth Kind looks genuinely creepy, tapping into that fear of helplessness running underneath good UFO fiction. Films like this come out with decent trailers every year or two though, and the real key will be in whether they show the shark. Nine times out of ten, these films end with the discovery that it’s just the government, or there are aliens but they’re really nice, or even that there are aliens and they really do want to eat our eyeballs but we can nuke the town or fridge or whatever to be safe … until the sequel. That wrecks everything that came before in this particular sort of horror film. The film’s early stages draw horror from the helplessness of our insignificance. A resolution that empowers us too much invalidates the earlier horror rather than providing catharsis.