A few years ago there was a surge of films in
Japan that became incredibly popular. What were they all about?
Ghost stories. In fact Hollywood didn't take long to jump on their
ideas, doing remakes of the most popular ones, such as THE RING, and
more recently THE GRUDGE. But there's plenty of reality-based
ghost stories floating around. In fact you can easily find entire
websites dedicated to paranormal stories sent in by readers. A recent
phenomenon that is growing in popularity within the supernatural community is
E.V.P., or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. The theory is that anyone with a
radio or TV can tune in the static, or "white noise", and potentially speak
with the dead. It's like a walkie-talkie to communicate with the
deceased. This concept has been studied and talked about quietly for the
last 20 years or so. There have been several documented cases of E.V.P.
experiences, many of which are very fascinating. It's enough to make you
wonder whether or not it could mean something. Many skeptics think
that it's a bogus theory, easily explained by saying that people will hear
what they want to hear, whether it's really there or not. Some of the
recordings I've heard sound pretty creepy, and absolutely do not sound
like vague noises. Now Hollywood has decided to make a film based around
this very phenomenon, called WHITE NOISE. I can honestly say that
it's a terrific concept for a film, in that it's scary just thinking about it.
What the film goes for is the chance of bringing something bad through by
using this technique. If the good spirits can communicate with us, why
couldn't the bad spirits do the same?
movie opens with
architect Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) beginning a normal day having
breakfast with his new wife Anna (Chandra West), and getting his son ready for
school. We learn that Rivers has remarried, his job is going very well,
he lives in a beautiful home, and he's just discovered that Anna is pregnant.
Everything is perfect... or so it seems. Then tragedy strikes.
Anna disappears. After not knowing for quite sometime what happened,
Jonathan eventually learns she has died. Her death appears to be an
accident at first. Rivers goes into a period of grieving, and changes
his lifestyle considerably. Anna's death has effectively torn his world
apart. One day a stranger named Raymond Price (Ian McNeice) shows up
spying on Jonathan. Eventually Raymond confesses he has supposedly been communicating with Anna from beyond
the grave. At first Jonathan is extremely skeptical, but curiosity
overcomes him, and he pays Raymond a visit at home. It is here where he learns
about E.V.P., and for the first time since her death, Rivers hears what
appears to be Anna's voice. While at Raymond's house, he meets Sarah
Tate (Deborah Kara Unger), a woman who has had great success communicating
with her dead husband. Sarah assures Jonathan that this method is a good
thing, and it isn't long before he becomes obsessed with the idea. But
things turn strange when Raymond befalls a mysterious fate. Rivers
assumes the role of communicator, and begins to discover much more than he
ever thought possible. However, now that the door has been opened to the
other side, Jonathan has no idea what else might be waiting for him.
Like any good ghost story, WHITE NOISE
does a good job of being fairly creepy. While one could assume there
would be some sort of satisfaction achieving some final moments of
communication with a fallen loved one, there are some very disturbing ideas
that come with that. It begs the question, if you could talk to the
dead, would you want to? Heck, I was creeped out just by watching the
trailer to this flick! Something about that announcer's voice... too
eerie. So with such an intriguing concept, does the film work?
Perhaps the best thing about this movie to me was the very pleasant return of
Michael Keaton in a lead role on the big screen. I'm glad to see him
back in action, and I've always felt he's best when serious. Keaton does
a great job conveying the dramatically changing emotions of Jonathan Rivers.
He's certainly showing his age, but it works for the character. A film
such as this wouldn't work unless it could be effectively scary, and it is.
Whether it's little moments, like hearing a faint voice within lengthy periods
of static noise, or drastic flashes of demonic imagery when you least expect
it. These are depictions you won't soon forget. I still look over
my shoulder just thinking about it. Deborah Kara Unger is quietly
comforting as Jonathan's friend in these confusing situations.
Thankfully the script doesn't try to force any sort of unnecessary romance
between the two characters, but rather just let's them be companions in this
unusual journey. One thing I liked very much was the opposing viewpoints
expressed through supplemental characters. For every scene where someone
shows appreciation of the technique, there's another scene where someone
completely disapproves of it. The film is directed by Geoffrey Sax, who
previously directed a British version of OTHELLO.
His storytelling is at times masterful and effective. Unfortunately the
script doesn't always work. There are some smooth moments that play out
very well, but they're spread throughout moments that seem way off the target.
The concept works. We buy it too, even if just for the purpose of the
film. But at one point the concept goes beyond what it started out as.
Rivers almost becomes a supernatural hero, saving those who are about to die,
all with the help of his dead wife. This is where the film gets to be a
bit much. It's not too ridiculous, just a little unexpected, and out of
left field for this storyline. Some of the moments toward to the end of
the film just drag to painful lengths. This is where Sax failed.
Once tension is there, don't try to stretch it any more than is necessary.
The film only plays at about 90 minutes, but those last 10 take forever.
Overall WHITE NOISE isn't terrible, but just not quite as great as it
should have been. The concept of E.V.P. to me is truly fascinating.
I still don't have the guts to actually try it. It this day of endless
sequels and remakes, it's nice to see someone attempt an original storyline
for a change. The world of the supernatural is perfect for Hollywood,
because so much of it can't be explained. It's only when Hollywood tries
to find a way to explain it that it loses it's steam. In the future,
just scare us, and we'll make up our own minds about how it all works.
There's nothing more frightening than what our own imagination is capable of.
In the end, if you like scary movies, you could do a lot worse. I
sincerely hope this film does well, if for no other reason than I'd like to
continue seeing Keaton on the big screen.
BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of
1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give WHITE NOISE a 7.
Check out the BIGFANBOY.com exclusive WHITE NOISE interview with Michael
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