Review by Mark Walters

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?

The 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.


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Visit the Universal Pictures official WHITE NOISE movie website by clicking here.


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