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