Actress Milla Jovovich introduces herself, and explains that she will play Dr. Abagail Tyler, a psychiatrist, in the re-enactment scenes of the movie, and they will be mixed in with the actual real videotaped events. She tells us that the film may have scenes that are…”disturbing”, and that at the end, we must choose what to believe.
The real Dr. Abigail Tyler has a taped interview in 2002, at Chapman University, and begins to retell her story. Two years prior to the taped interview, we pick up her story in Anchorage, Alaska, as she is telling her friend and fellow psychiatrist, Dr. Abel Campos (Elias Koteas), what happened to her and her family, and he puts her under hypnosis so that she can remember what has happened. She goes back to a night, where after making love with her husband, Will (also a psychiatrist, and doing research on unexplained phenomenon in his patients), they fall asleep. She is awakened by a sound, and while groggy and still not quite awake, her husband is brutally, repeatedly stabbed, right next to her in bed. She screams, and yet cannot see who it is. Terrified and hysterical, Dr. Campos brings her out of hypnosis. It has been just 2 months since her husband’s death, and the case is still unsolved. Dr. Campos encourages her to take some time off, but she refuses, explaining that Will’s research meant a lot to him, and she needs to finish it for him.
She flies back home, to Nome, Alaska, and gets back to her job and family. She begins her work at her practice, and tapes sessions with 3 different patients, all of whom have the exact same experience: they have difficulty sleeping at night, and each one has seen a white owl at their window, every night this week, just staring at them. One patient remembers the same owl visiting her as a child. Another patient, Scott, says somehow, it got in his house. Patient Tommy agrees.
Abby goes home, and has dinner with her 2 children, Ashley and Ronnie. Ronnie is a young teen, and Ashley is a grade schooler. Ashley is suffering from Conversion Disorder since her father was killed, and is blind. Abby fears that she will never regain her vision. Ronnie blames his mother for his father’s death, and argues with her, and leaves the table. In her bedroom, Abby dictates into a tape recorder, her thoughts about her patients, and falls asleep. The next day, she gives the tape recorder to her assistant to transcribe.
The next day, patient Tommy, a middle-aged man, comes for a session with Abby. After he is hypnotized, he tells how he saw the owl again, and then knows something is in the house and right outside his door. He becomes agitated, and starts screaming “No! No!” and then tries to crawl away, knocking over a lamp and breaking it in the doctor’s office. He is hysterical, and Abby quickly brings him out of hypnosis. When she asks him what he saw, he says, “…nothing” and leaves, saying he’ll talk about it next time.
Abby is woken up by the phone ringing later at night: it is Sheriff August, and he tells her that Tommy has taken his family hostage and holding them at gunpoint, and won’t talk to anyone but her. She quickly dresses and drives over, and sees the house surrounded by police. As she talks to Tommy on the phone, she sees him through the windows. He is holding his wife at gunpoint, and his children are also there. He says, “I’m so sorry, but I gotta do this”, and as she tries desperately to keep him talking, he mumbles something in a strange language, and then he shoots his wife, the children, and him himself. The sheriff interviews Abby at the station and wants to know what Tommy said, and what he saw. He doesn’t believe any of the mysterious things, and is hostile. She tells him that there have been more unsolved murders or missing people in the past 3 years in Nome, than any other city in Alaska. This angers the sheriff, and he clearly thinks Abby is wrong about Tommy and her research.
Dr. Campos flies to Nome to check on her, and again tries to convince Abby to take time off and rest. She refuses, and he decides to stay and keep an eye on her. Abby hypnotizes Scott, and other patient who has difficulty sleeping and also sees the white owl, and Dr. Campos observes. Scott brings his wife, and she is there during the session, which is being taped. Once hypnotized, he recounts seeing the owl, but says it isn’t a normal owl. He tenses, and remembers trying to wake his wife, to no avail. He knows someone is outside his door, and then we hear creaking sounds, and he begins screaming. He chokes, and writhes, and is hysterically screaming. Abby wakes him up, and he stumbles off the couch and vomits. He tells her he saw them, and said, “they’re not from here”. He said they smelled like putrid cinnamon, and they have voices inside his head, and talk inside his mind. He knows he was taken away, but can’t remember where to or what they did. After they leave, Abby discusses what happened with Dr. Campos and suggests alien abduction as a possible theory. Dr. Campos is skeptical, and thinks it must have a more logical cause or explanation.
The next day, Abby’s assistant returns the tape recorder, and is quite upset by what she heard and refuses to transcribe it. Abby listens to the tape at home that evening, and can’t believe what she hears: after she fell asleep, she hears a creaking and then she hears herself screaming, and also hears some garbled, unknown language. She hears a scratching sound, and finds fingernail scratches on the hardwood floor, and knows she’s been abducted.
The next day, she calls Dr. Odusami, the author of a book about ancient peoples and their hieroglyphics. He tells her that her husband also called him earlier and asked questions. He tells her that the language she heard is probably Sumerian, the oldest known language, predating the Bible and that he understood a few words: “ruin” and “destroy”.
We hear the explanation of the different kinds of extra-terrestrial encounters, and defined in 1972: 1st Kind-sighting, 2nd Kind-evidence, 3rd Kind; contact with extra-terrestrial, and 4th Kind: abduction.
Later, she gets a phone call from Scott’s wife-he is in bed, hysterical, and panicked. He has an unexplained bruise on his upper arm, and wants to be hypnotized again, to get the voices out of his head. Once under hypnosis with Abby and Dr. Campos and the videotape going, he bolts up, awake and screams, his mouth stretched open huge and distorted, and he yells, mumbles and then collapses, and screams in terror. Sheriff August goes to Abby’s house and tells her Scott’s neck is broken and he is paralyzed from the neck down. He blames her and starts to arrest her. Dr. Campos pleads to leave her with her children, and he relents, but says she cannot leave her house, and puts a cop out front to guard it.
At 3:30am, Deputy Ryan who has been keeping watch, apparently fell asleep in his car out front. He wakes up, and sees something near the house, and gets out to investigate. The videotape recorder in his car is running, and we see him, until is inexplicably gets interference and the picture is blurred. He yells that he sees something, and then rushes in the house. Abby’s daughter, Ashley, is missing. Abby says she saw a beam of light and they took Ashley through the ceiling and was abducted. The sheriff thinks she is crazy and removes her son from her custody.
To get Ashley back, Abby decides that she must be hypnotized, to try to remember what she saw. Dr. Campos and Dr. Odusami tape her session, and once hypnotized, she remembers seeing the white owl, looking down at her, smiling. Then she says it isn’t really an owl, and begins screaming. She also screams in Sumerien “I…am God”, yet it isn’t her voice. Something is injected into her shoulder by the unseen being and she remembers drills, and the tape goes blurry again. Abby narrates and says all 3 of them were abducted, and then returned. They have no memory of where they went or what happened to them, but she remembers feeling total hopelessness. She didn’t see Ashley or know what has happened to her while abductedshe is still missing.
Abby is in a hospital bed, with a neck brace on, and Sheriff August is at her side. He asks her once again to explain how her husband died. Before she can speak, he shows her 2 photos: one of her husband’s headwith a bullet wound in the temple, and another of a pistol, which was found at the scene. He explains that her husband actually killed himself. She realizes that she couldn’t handle what she saw, and her mind invented the stabbing memory as a coping measure.
We are updated on the current status of the characters: Dr. Abby Tyler is living on the East Coast. She is bedridden with deteriorating health, and under a doctor’s supervision. She was cleared of any involvement in Ashley’s disappearance. She still firmly believes Ashley was taken by a non-human intelligence. Ronnie is now 22, and estranged from his mother; he still blames her for his sister’s disappearance. Dr. Campos is still a practicing psychiatrist in Alaska. He corroborated her story and the tapes. Sheriff August retired 2 years after the story took place. Ashley is still missing.
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