a critiQal film review White Noise (2005)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: Jonathan (Keaton) is approached by a man claiming to have received "messages" from Jonathan's dead wife. This man is a big believer in Electronic Voice Phenomenon (E. V.P.), where the dead communicate with the living through voice and images. As Jonathan gets more involved in E. V.P., he discovers that not all the people who contact the living are good...

676 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 22s)
  • ...despite some originality - and the DVD extras exploring the "real" E.V.P. - this one won't stand up to repeated viewings.

Yet another film has come along that explores peoples’ fascination with the dead and the afterlife. The dead in films range from the classic horror images like Night of the Living Dead (1968) to the good people in the likes of City of Angels. In White Noise, they present a wide variety, but how they get in touch with the living is a little different. This film has the dead communicate via Electronic Voice Phenomenon, a growing interest for many.

Because of this premise, White Noise seemed interesting from the first preview Heather and I saw, so we decided to pick it up when it hit DVD. Would Michael Keaton and E. V.P. be able to pull this movie through, or would it just turn into so much White Noise?

Michael Keaton. There’s a name that hasn’t been big in movies since Jack Frost (1998). Of course, most people remember him as the first big-screen Batman, or from the awful Multiplicity. Having played a deceased man already in Jack Frost (1998), it’s interesting to see him on the other side in White Noise, as a man searching for signs from his deceased wife.

He starts off slow, and the viewer will probably not believe a lot of his performance in the beginning. As the film progresses, however, his acting improves right along with it, thankfully. By the climax of the film, his acting has improved to the extent where the viewer is totally engrossed in White Noise, and hangs on every moment to see what will happen next.

The other characters in White Noise don’t really contribute much acting-wise, being basically just pinpoints of his life before the accident, and the few people he meets along his way after the accident. The most recognizable of these other characters is Deborah Kara Unger, who some may remember from Michael Douglas’ best film to date, The Game (1997). She gave a terrific performance in that film, but sadly doesn’t really get a chance to show her stuff here. She’s the only real memorable person in White Noise aside from Michael Keaton, but it’s mainly due to one or two crucial points in the film that she happens to be involved in.

White Noise starts off rather typical for this type of film. A loved one dies unexpectedly (ala The Mothman Prophecies (2002)), and it prompts the living spouse to find out more – no matter how odd the means. As the film progresses, it grabs the viewer’s attention through some very well put together sequences, and keeps the mood of the film tense – trying not to let up at all. By the end of the film, however, it has degenerated again into just another typical film in this genre. Because of that, the viewer will most likely leave with the rather generic ending in mind, giving them mixed reactions of the film as a whole.

The special effects in White Noise were well done, and mainly involved ghostly images superimposed over different objects. The real tension of the film, however, comes not from the special effects (as you may expect), but more from the quiet background music throughout the film. The score really sets the mood for the film, and keeps the tension high throughout almost every scene. It’s a real bonus to the film, yet subtle enough that the average viewer won’t remember much about it. – just that it worked for the film.

Overall, White Noise is a decent try at employing E.V.P. into a thriller. Sure, you may see bits of The Ring (2002) and Poltergeist (1982) in the film (especially the static-y TV screens…who doesn’t remember the Poltergeist (1982) girl in front of the TV set – “They’re heeere”?), but it does try it’s own unique approach to the genre, giving it some originality – which is a lot more than can be said for many Hollywood films these days.

Is it worth owning? No, I don’t think so. Even with the DVD extras exploring the “real” E.V.P., White Noise probably won’t stand up to multiple viewings.

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