White Noise

Dir: Geoffrey Sax
Star: Michael Keaton, Deborah Unger, Chandra West, Ian McNeice

Decent idea; increasingly poor execution. The theme is EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), a paranormal phenomena suggesting that the dead can communicate with the living through electromagnetic means like audio and video-tape. It's not a new cinema topic (Pulse, Poltergeist and The Sixth Sense all brushed against it), but this is the first time it's been the focus. On the evidence here, it's just too thin for an entire movie, and the further this goes, the further it descends into standard PG-13 horror shock tactics. When Jonathan Rivers (Keaton) loses his wife in an accident, he is devastated - who wouldn't be? But an encounter with researcher Price (McNeice) reveals the world of EVP and lets Rivers see dead people - and, it becomes clear, those not yet dead too. It also seems his wife's accident was not what it seems.

On the shallowest level, this taps nicely into a common yearning, to communicate with the departed, and when Rivers gets calls from his dead wife's cellphone, the results are nicely eerie. However, there's only so long you can watch Keaton listen to static with the same expression of concern, and the film's relentless drift from its core concept coincides with a steady decrease in the interest level. By the time you reach the ending, EVP has been abandoned almost entirely, in favour of spirits capable of wrecking apartments and a serial-killer who, inevitably (but without real purpose), happens to be close to Rivers. There may yet be a good movie written around EVP; just make no mistake, White Noise is not it.

July 2006

Michael Keaton listens to static
with an expression of concern
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