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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > White Noise

MOVIE REVIEWS

WHITE NOISE  (2005)

Starring Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice, Sarah Strange, Nicholas Elia, Mike Dopud, Marsha Regis, Brad Sihvon, Mitchell Kosterman, L. Harvey Gold, Amber Rothwell, Suzanne Ristic, Connor Tracy, Miranda Frigon, Aaron Douglas, Anthony Harrison, Bruce Dawson, Benita Ha, Anastasia Corbett, Miki Maunsell and Ross Birchall.

Screenplay by Niall Johnson.

Directed by Geoffrey Sax.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  101 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

White Noise

It's tough to say exactly when Michael Keaton's star fell, the exact point in time when he went from doing movies like Batman, Beetlejuice and Clean & Sober to having to play supporting roles in First Daughter and Herbie: Fully Loaded.  It is tempting to blame Jack Frost, and that is still his nadir, but he was headed down before that stinker.  Lately, he has made a bit of a step up in terms of quality when he gets a chance to star; just check out the terrific HBO movie Live From Baghdad.  With White Noise he gets back into the driver's seat of a major motion picture, and he does a pretty damned good job in a somewhat uneven thriller.

It has a pretty standard horror set-up; Jonathan Rivers is a successful architect, who is married (and wildly in love with her, these films can't have unhappy couples in their early scenes.)  His wife Anna (Chandra West) is gorgeous, at least fifteen years younger than Jonathan, a popular novelist who is just releasing her latest best-seller and has just broken the news that she is pregnant.  His life is obviously too good, it is due for a good shaking up.  After all, this is a horror film.

One night Anna does not come home.  Her abandoned car is found on the side of the road.  There is no sign of her. 

Jonathan is trying to maintain his sanity and his world when he notices that a strange man (Ian McNeice) has started following him.  When Rivers confronts him, the man says that he has been in touch with his wife.  This should be good news, however then the stranger says that she is dead and he has been speaking with her ghost.  (Oh, come on, you knew that was coming.)  Jonathan treats him like anyone would, as if he was a psychopath.  However, when the wife's body is finally found and Jonathan has a few weird experiences with his car radio and cell phone, he looks up the man to find out what Anna is trying to communicate. 

It turns out the guy uses EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon).  In layman's terms, EVP has to do with taping the static on a television channel and watching it back to see if there are voices or faces from the grave.  Apparently, all over the world the dead are sending messages on radio and television waves.

Jonathan becomes obsessed with searching for clues in the static; to the point that he completely ignores both his beloved son and his previously all-encompassing job.  Honestly, I couldn't help but wonder why he had become so fixated.  He spent sleepless hours watching videotapes for the occasional possible glimpse of what may be a figure, what may be turbulence, what may be a cable malfunction. 

By the way, as you may imagine, watching a guy watching static is not exactly a thrilling cinematic experience.  It gives you much too much time to think about the implausibility of the story.  I got to thinking wait a second, do they still make TVs that show static instead of going straight to blue screen?  Also, in this era where everyone has cable, who has static anyway?  Who came up with this idea and how did they stumble across it?  Was someone just sitting around watching a blank screen one day when he realized, hey, there's dead people in there?

However, even if this was an interesting phenomena, it is one that most people are unfamiliar with.  (I personally kept thinking back to Carol Ann staring at the static on the tube in Poltergeist a scarier and better movie and saying "They're here" as a tendril of smoke shaped like a hand reached out of the boob tube.)

Then, White Noise seems to swerve from the rules it seemed to be playing by.  Ironically, it makes the film more exciting as a storyline, and yet seems like it would be at odds with the whole idea of the phenomenon as it has been explained to us.

Suddenly a series of evil spirits seem to be lurking behind every corner.  Also, Jonathan realizes that some of the cryptic things he is gleaning from the snow of his TV have not happened yet, but are hazy reflections of the future.  The audience is thinking, wait a second, is this a ghost story or one about precognition?  Jonathan tries to become a superhero with help of his visions, saving the people in danger that he sees on screen, but we are wondering how this is all working.  Then the evil spirits start getting nasty, targeting Jonathan and his fellow EVPers.  Suddenly, a ghost story about a widower searching for his wife has become a kidnap story in which Jonathan is trying to save a character that we have not even met while avoiding the boogeymen that are after him. 

White Noise does have its share of scary moments (in particular a sudden suicide and some of the appearances of the evil spirits.)  However the second half of the movie seems like they felt obligated to spice up their concept to make it more interesting.  They may have even been correct in this supposition, unfortunately when they do, though, the plot all goes awry.  There may be a story worth telling in EVP, but White Noise doesn't quite pull it off.  (1/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2005 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved. Posted: May 17, 2005.

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Copyright 2005   PopEntertainment.comAll rights reserved. Posted: May 17, 2005.

 

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