The car of successful author Anna Rivers is found disabled next to the river, the thought being that she accidentally fell into the river while trying to change a flat tire. Her dead body is found upstream several weeks later, consistent with the accidental death theory. Based on incidents around him, her grieving husband, architect Jonathan Rivers, decides several months later to visit with Raymond Price, who approached John prior to Anna's body being found with news that she was trying to contact him from beyond. At that time, John was skeptical of Raymond's claims of electronic voice phenomena (EVP): that he is contacted from the beyond through electronic means - radio, television - which he is able to record. Along with Sarah Tate, another of Raymond's "clients" whose fiancé passed away, John becomes obsessed with EVP as he gets more and more audio and video messages, however fuzzy, from Anna from beyond. That obsession takes a slight change in focus when John believes that Anna ... Written by
Interesting. Intense. Somewhat original. All words to describe a conversation with Johnny Betts. But they also apply to Michael Keaton's White Noise. What we have here is a ghost story that tackles the subject of electronic voice phenomenon, or, as the cool kids like to call it - EVP.
For those of you who, unlike Johnny Betts, aren't master ghost hunters, EVP is the alleged communication by spirits through the white noise of staticky radio stations, television stations, and other electronic devices. People truly believe in it, and if you do a quick search on the Internet then you can find plenty of websites with audio files they say prove the existence of EVP. Detractors will brush this off with explanations of the "chaos theory" and cross modulation. I'll let you do your own research if you're interested in the subject.
If you're looking for a factual exploration of EVP's possible legitimacy, then you won't find it in White Noise. This is a movie that takes a subject popular with ghost hunters and glorifies it. It reminds me a little of The Mothman Prophecies, which was a fictionalized account of what was supposed to be a "true story." I have no problem with that. That's what movies are all about.
Michael Keaton crawls out from underneath whatever rock he's been under, does his best "Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense" impersonation, and dives into the world of receiving messages from the dead. Folks, you can nitpick the logic to death if you want, and trust me, most critics are. "Why would he just put his successful life on hold and spend all his time trying to receive messages from his wife through a bunch of radio and TV static?" Dunno. The tragic death of a spouse can do weird things to people. Plus, you know, IT'S A MOVIE! And in the movie, he actually does receive messages from the dead. I guess he figured he'd try it; it worked, so he got more involved. Lighten up. It's called fiction.
"Yeah, well, if his wife wanted to contact him, then why wouldn't she send him clearer messages? Why does it have to be through static?" BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT EVP IS ALL ABOUT! Take it up with the proponents of EVP, not the movie. I totally agree that one of the things that makes so many people skeptical about EVP is that the messages are never complex. If I heard an EVP that said, "Tell Johnny Betts that the afterlife rules, and he should keep the Movie Mark going strong," then I'd probably be convinced. But what we get is a lot of one syllable words and sounds strung together. That's not the movie's fault. Deal with it and move on.
As some of you know, I'm a huge fan of the thriller/horror genre. Admittedly, White Noise isn't one of the best of all time in the genre, but that's OK. It didn't convince me to run home, record a static TV channel for hours, and then play it back to see if Uncle Jack was sending me a message from the great beyond. Like an apology for that little streaking stunt that completely ruined my 16th birthday party. However, what the movie did do is entertain me. The mystery is deliberately paced, it kept my interest, and it provided some creepy moments along the way.
Things start to get pretty intense near the end of the movie, and some people might not be happy with the finale. But keep in mind that trying to communicate with the dead is a bit of a dark subject. Some people, as the movie depicts, think that if they can contact their dead relatives then they'll have hope, they'll know all is right in the afterlife. They want some sort of message for closure. But I'm just curious, what if that message is, "Burning. Hell. I screwed up." ??? I'm guessing that'd be a bit of a kick in the pants.
But getting back to the movie... if there's good in the afterlife, there has to be evil as well, right? In the movie, contacting the dead initially seems harmless enough. But why would you think only the good would respond if you create that human/afterlife portal? What would happen if evil decided to communicate as well? White Noise has a viewpoint on that subject, and you can't expect everything to be cute and cuddly.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna take a closer listen to this static coming from the radio. Let's see. Sounds like Uncle Jack! I can just make it out... "Johnny. Reviews. Not funny. Quit. Now." Um, yeah, just as I thought - nothing but a little cross modulation! THE GIST White Noise is an interesting take on the ghost story, using the subject of EVP as its backdrop. It isn't what I'd call scary, but it's got its share of creepy moments and effective jump scenes. If you're looking for a docu-drama on the scientific accuracy of EVP then you might be disappointed, but if you're in the mood for a few chills to start the year then White Noise just might suit you.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
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