I can’t recall another movie in recent memory that had such an effective ad campaign for a colossal mess. Sure, it happens often, but rarely on this scale.
For those who are still a bit foggy about the details of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), here’s the basic jist: People who have passed on, through an unexplainable way, contact the living through electronic devices such as televisions and radios. Through a mess of static solemn voices can be heard and sometimes faces seen on the television…if the plot requires it.
Michael Keaton stars as Jonathan Rivers, a successful architect who is married to Anna (West), and equally successful author. It’s Jonathan’s second marriage, and he shares custody time with his son, Mike (Elia), with his ex-wife Jane (Strange). We learn early on that Anna is pregnant, which usually means that imminent danger is only minutes away.
And that it is. The following night Anna goes missing, and is subsequently found dead. Six months later Jonathan has still not regained control of his life, but one day he is approached by the husky Raymond Price (McNeice). Price claims to have recordings of contact that Sarah has made with him through EVP. Jonathan is doubtful to the legitimacy of his claim, but curiosity gets the better of him and he soon finds his life taken over by the notion of being able to reach Anna from beyond the grave.
Jonathan seemingly gives up his life as an architect in order to sit in front of a TV or radio all day hoping for some static-y messages from Anna. Don’t get me wrong, this film starts off intriguingly enough, but tragically loses its way when it converts to yet another supernatural killer flick. In a Frequency-style manner, Anna begins contacting him regarding the whereabouts of another woman who has gone missing. With the help of another EVP enthusiast, Sarah (Unger), they must get find the missing woman before it is too late.
White Noise reminded me a lot of 2003’s Dreamcatcher in terms of taking suicidal wrong turns. The way this film veers into standard “gotcha!” scares and ludicrous plot developments is unforgivable, and it even comes topped with the “surprise” climax that is nothing more than a slap in the face to the audience members. Worst of all, there is not one genuinely scary part in the entire film.
It doesn’t do anything for EVP either, which is a very interesting and engaging theory. In this film it is nothing more than a throwaway plot device that is an excuse for sensory overload. Its coverage of EVP is so fundamentally flawed, and the proof lies in all the questions that are to be asked as to how it’s used in the film. Questions such as: Can anyone with a TV and radio magically turn it on and start hearing voices? What channels and frequencies are Jonathan and Raymond using? How did Raymond know that Jonathan was Anna’s husband? And how did he know where to contact him?
The performances are nothing to write home about. Michael Keaton, in his first starring role since 1998’s Jack Frost, does what he can with his underdeveloped character. He spends most of the film whining in front of a TV screen. Deborah Kara Unger turns up as a character who truly defies death in her own way (it’s a howler), but is similarly underwritten. Ian McNeice is the only memorable character of the lot, but his screen time is unwisely slim.
Director Geoffrey Sax gives the film a nice, dark look, but it’s really all for nothing because of Niall Johnson’s inept story.
White Noise truly showed promise with its compelling ad campaign, but don’t be fooled, this is a mess. Here’s to hoping that a solid film with elements of EVP will surface in the future, as it truly is a fascinating theory.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 101 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and language.
Theatrical Release: January 7, 2005
Directed by: Geoffrey Sax
Written by: Niall Johnson
Cast: Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice, Sarah Strange, Nicholas Elia