February 3, 2005

Movie Review: White Noise

When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was a bit intrigued, although the subject was not one that could say that I believe in, but it makes good film fodder. I'm sorry, I'm jumping ahead a little bit. The idea behind the film is EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. This is supposedly how the dead can contact the living through the detuned noise of modern equipment, such as radio static and television snow. With that out of the way we can get down to taking a look at this unfortunate mess of a movie.

The movie centers on Jon Rivers, a divorced father who has remarried and shares custody of his son. Early in the film, he loses his wife, Anna, in a tragic accident. He does his best to get on with his life, but there is something missing. One day upon leaving his home, he notices that he is being followed. He confronts this man who tells him that there is a way to contact his lost wife. Of course, he is skeptical for about a minute, and the next thing you know, he is spending every waking moment watching snow and making tapes in the hopes of contacting the dead. This quickly evolves into a contact made, but with a mixed signal coming through. I don't wish to say more about the tale, out of respect to those who may wish to see this movie.

There are some good things, but not enough to really be able to recommend it. The best thing about it is Michael Keaton. I have always enjoyed his work, and this is no exception although it seems as if his best scenes were cut short. He does a wonderful job of trying to portray a man who has suffered a great loss and is desperate to fill that void. It's just a shame that the script never really goes anywhere. I also must mention the casting of Deborah Kara Unger as the female lead, and another person who has experienced EVP. She is perfectly cast as the sympathetic foil, her features have a very easy way to them, not quite sure how to explain it, she just seems right in the role. Unfortunately, like most of the characters, she is let down by a weak script.

The director shows us everything in a heavy handed manner, nothing is left to the viewer to figure out. He does manage to give us a number of very interesting to look at shots, but after awhile it just becomes too much. It's like a film student throwing everything has learned into a single film as a way to demonstrate that he can do it. On top of that, he relies too heavily on jump scares to build suspense, and anyone who has seen a good suspense film knows that is not the way to build tension in a viewer, it just gets them ready for the slower portions and prepare for the next jump. This is actually the first time I have seen a film that had jump scares incorporated into the opening credits!

The story is seriously flawed as well. The logic jumps that are made do not make much sense. For example, the supposed EVP expert who is following Keaton around just to tell him about EVP, why stalk him? Wouldn't it have been easier to call him, or knock on his door, anything. Another would be how quickly he buys into the phenomenon, it was not terribly realistic, and the film seems to imply that everyone is looking to contact the dead, which is completely unbelievable. Add to that the change in direction that it takes at the end involving malicious spirits, is just so out there as to throw out all that has come before.

The biggest issue would have to be playing by the rules. The film opens with an explanation of what EVP is, and then the film proper goes on to explain some of the rules, unfortunately it does not play by the rules, as explained, for the entire duration, This effectively throws out any internal reality that has built up.

Bottomline. There are a few things to like, the two leads for one, even if the script leaves them hanging, they do the best they can. The shots are rather nice as well, when they don't have that "look at me" quality to them. The underlying idea is a good one and deserves a better work up than White Noise can provide. Maybe someday.

Not Recommended.


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