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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)
White Noise is a film that takes a true scientific phenomenon, and
makes a film out of it. The phenomenon is one which involves electronic
recording/broadcast equipment. In amongst white-noise (that crackle and
hiss you get on a blank recording) and static on untuned TV reception
there are voices and images discernible. Sometimes these voices have
been clear enough to work out, and many people believe they are the
voices and images of those who have died, trying to contact the living.
In the film, Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, an estate agent who loses his wife. When he is approached by Raymond, a man who lost his son years ago and claims he has heard from Jonathan's wife, it draws him into the phenomenon, and pretty soon he becomes obsessed, recording his own tapes and viewing/listening to them for messages. Then, suddenly, the messages become clear, and seem to be premonitions. Can he decipher the meaning of the messages, or will he disturb something best left alone? I was uncertain going into the film what to expect. Too many times the film world have come up with a great concept, but failed to deliver anything more than mediocre when it is a horror subject. Expecting another Godsend, I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty good film, with some nice touches, and chills. Admittedly the story wouldn't look out of place on X-Files, but unlike the recent The Forgotten, it manages to feel complete, and doesn't seem to take the easy option at the end.
The direction by Sax (best know for his TV work such as Tipping the Velvet, Dr Who, Clocking Off, and Spitting Image to name a few) is more than sufficient, and he uses the white-noise to great effect. A little buzz here, and flicker there all serve to unnerve, and you could be forgiven for thinking you are watching another Japanese adaptation. There are a lot of similarities to eastern horror throughout, the use of silence the unnerve, the distorted images in the TV sets, and so on. Only the occasion "music to let you know you should jump" lets down the tone.
Nevertheless, with a well woven script which doesn't pander to the lowest denominator, and a sterling performance from Michael Keaton, who hasn't really had a presence on the screen since 1998s Jack Frost, make this an enjoyable little movie which deserves a viewing or two.
I recently was allowed to view this movie at a press screening. I can
tell you as a professional ghost researcher, the portrayals are quite
realistic and believable. The characters are accurate and the subject
of Electronic Voice Phenomena is well represented.
It is a Hollywood-esquire movie in that some things are portrayed a little bigger than real life, but that in no way detracts from the believability of the movie. It has none of the fantasy that things like "Ghostbusters" bestowed upon a naive audience.
I loved this movie. Truly. It touched me on a personal level. It made me think about some of the more risky possibilities of my profession. And some parts really made me jump in my seat!
See it. At least twice.
Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) is a successful architect. His wife,
Anna (Chandra West) is an even more successful novelist. When Anna goes
missing one night, they fear she is dead. Suddenly, an odd man named
Raymond Price (Ian McNeice) shows up and tells Jonathan that his wife
has been trying to contact him from "the other side", via Electronic
Voice Phenomena (EVPs). Rivers also gradually gets wrapped up in EVPs,
which lead him to some unusual situations and the heart of a mystery.
I had a very divided reaction to White Noise. Some aspects were excellent, but in many ways, the film had potential that was never actualized. There are also some flaws that kept drawing me out of the film's universe. Overall I felt the film worked, but probably not as writer Niall Johnson and director Geoffrey Sax intended.
Let's talk about what the film did right first. The major assets, as mentioned in the title of my review, were the production/set design, cinematography and overall atmosphere. The latter largely hinges on the first two. The production/set design and cinematography were nearly perfect. Everything was focused on the idea of white noise, especially the most well known visual depiction of white noise--television "static" or "snow". The credits introduced a motif of jarring intrusions of white noise, which occasionally recurred throughout the film (although perhaps not enough). There were clever instantiations of a visual "white noise" theme in the sets, such as the outside waterfall on the lower level of Jonathan's apartment building, and the wall of glass blocks inside his apartment. The color scheme was white, silver and blue, washed out so that the film had an almost black and white feel. There were also more abstract references to white noise, such as the running water motif (water dynamics are mathematically chaotic, as is white noise, which is also thought of as being literally random), and the arcing electricity. All of this combined to provide a wonderful, gloomy atmosphere, and in another film, would easily compensate for any minor flaws to bring the film up to a 10.
However, there are a number of problems with White Noise. Keaton's performance was the major sticking point for me. He seems aloof and brooding throughout the entire film. While that may have been perfect for Batman, it doesn't work for me here. Both McNeice and Deborah Kara Unger (as Sarah Tate) were fine, but their roles were minor enough to not be able to carry the film. I usually like Keaton a lot, and I can't say that I dislike him here, but his performance is very odd and off-putting.
Another problem was the pacing. For a long time, White Noise may as well have been a realist drama. While that's fine for other films, it also doesn't tend to work in a horror/thriller. The only directors I've seen really able to pull that combination off effectively are Alfred Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan. It takes so long to get to the horror/thriller part of the story that many people likely either lose interest by that point, or they're interested because they'd rather see a realist drama, and the more supernatural ending will be unsatisfying for them. The pacing also doesn't fit with the white noise/chaos motif. This is a film that should have been edited like a Michael Bay vehicle.
Finally, I had a number of problems with the story. One, there are quite a few superfluous elements (such as Jonathan's son). Two, although I'm not someone who usually complains about genre combinations, there was an attempt to make White Noise both a "benevolent spirit" story, ala Ghost (1990) and a Ring (2002)-like otherworldly threat. The two just didn't meld. Three, the thriller aspect, which enters primarily at the climax of the film, seems too tacked on to engender an appropriate emotional reaction from the audience. And four, the supernatural aspects and especially the "twist revelation" of the ending are very rushed and unpleasantly ambiguous, possibly in an attempt to hide the fact that the plot in these respects wasn't very well thought out. There is a tremendous amount of potential in the script, and it is entertaining enough to marginally recommend, but this seems more like an early draft that was rushed to completion, or possibly a film that suffered a lot of studio meddling.
The bottom line is that while there are enough positive elements to make White Noise worth a watch to serious genre fans and students of film-making, do not expect the story to grab you by the short and curlies, and do not expect much of a resolution. Enjoy the film primarily for its visuals. I'm generously rating the film a 7 out of 10.
What a shame it is when a potentially captivating and refreshingly
low-key story manages to latch onto your interest at the start and then
gradually lets you down further and further until you're left
scratching your mystified head by the time it reaches its overdone
conclusion. Unfortunately, this is what happened to me by the end of
It wasn't Michael Keaton's fault; it was a pleasure to see him return as the star of a brand new movie once again, looking a bit wrinkled perhaps, but still managing to give a strong and sincere performance. As a man whose wife has recently died, he becomes obsessed with her wandering spirit in the afterlife (not a new idea), apparently getting contacted by her through that funky electrical fuzz business you see on your television screen when there's nothing being broadcast.
The idea of spirits communicating via the airwaves is called EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) and there are a lot of people who actually believe in it for real, so I'm not going to make any comments about what I think of that, or them. Let me just say that I'm all for suspension of disbelief when it comes to buying into fantastic films like this, but what I can't tolerate is not understanding what the hell was supposed to be taking place, which is about where I was left stranded when the credits finally began to roll. Much static indeed.
There are occasionally movies like this that have me completely baffled, but if a film fails to make itself clear for me, I tend to consider that to be the fault of the filmmaker, not my own (unless I watched it while I was too tired to focus or something). Well, for WHITE NOISE I was wide awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed -- so guess who's to blame?
I first heard about White Noise when I saw the TV advert. Before then I didn't even know it existed. I watched the trailer online and decided that I would go and see it. Now being a fan of films like The Sixth Sense, I thought that this film would give me everything I wanted. It has Michael Keaton in it, and he rocks. Unfortunately the film did not deliver. It tried to be another Sixth Sense or Stir of Echoes, and failed miserably. It has a very promising start, but the middle just drags on repeating itself, and ends with a completely poor twist which any monkey could have figured out. Unfortunately like most "Scary" films nowadays it relies on loud noises and bangs to make the audience jump. This film could have been so much more. It's a shame because it was a good idea.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Absolutely one of the worst movies of the year. The plot is ridiculous, the characters poorly developed, and the premise irritatingly stupid. It all begins when Michael Keaton, fresh off of doing nothing noteworthy since Batman, loses his beautiful author wife, Anna, to a car accident, possibly caused by her driving one of those convertible VW bugs even though she's supposed to be rich. In his grief, Batman moves to a new apartment and takes up a hobby: recording nothing and then watching it. He learned this from a really fat pathetic guy who got murdered by three tall shadowy fellows who lived in his TV. Pretty soon, he starts to see dead people, thanks to EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, which is evidently this deal wherein dead people can send messages to living people through tape recorders, video cameras, dead cell phones ("Anna cell calling? But she's...DEAD!...Must be ghosts. Mhmmm. No other possible explanation. I'd better start messing around with this indiscriminately.") etc. Why they can't just write something down on a piece of paper or knock over some stuff to form creative pictograms is never explained. ANyway, eventually Batman discovers that he's actually seeing the future, and he decides to go help this woman he doesn't know. He gets out of his house just in the nick of time, because the tall dark guys enter just after he leaves ("D*mn it! Can travel between the living and dead using electronics, but I'll be d*mned if we can be on time! Am I right guys? (They nod in bemused agreement)."). He tracks this lady to a warehouse and finds out that this character from the first ten minutes of the movie (look hard, or you'll miss him!) is actually a serial killer working for three tall shadowy demons, who in Raiders of the Lost Ark style swoop down and kill him, looking like the cartoons that they are. Just then some detectives show up and save the lady. After Batman's funeral, he decides to send a message from beyond the grave apologizing to his son for being an idiot, evidently feeling that the best way to protect his kid from the horrors of EVP is to expose him to it. The little kid just smiles. Nothing phases that dude, not even when his dad, Batman of course, starts talking to TV's. The high-point of the movie was when someone's phone rang and some guy yelled out, "It's Anna!"
It has been a very long time since I have seen a movie and actually
thought it was scary. I was very surprised when half way through this
movie I thought I may have broken my husband's hand because I was
squeezing so hard. While the beginning of the movie is a little slow,
it pulls you along because you can sense something is going to happen.
When it does, I was not disappointed at all.
I thought the acting was great even though Michael Keaton is not aging well. It was filmed entirely in Vancouver and was beautiful to watch. The traditional scary effects are used well and wisely and you will jump, despite preparing yourself for the scare. While I am not a believer in ghosts, this movie made me think and forever question and fear white noise.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I frequently comment on the utter dirth of truly scary movies on the
market, and sadly White Noise only served to reduce my faith that the
film industry remains capable of such an endeavor. I was surprised to
find myself growingly increasingly fatigued as the plot wore on and my
static-induced headache increased. I found White Noise to be
preposterous beyond our best efforts of suspension of disbelief. Even
after witnessing the harrowing ordeal sustained by Michael Keaton, I
was totally unaffected by his demise. Up until the credits I diligently
awaited for something--anything-- of substance to connect me to the
characters' story, but such relief never came. Sure, there were the
occasional heart-stopper moments, but only because loud noises tend to
do that to the dozing viewer.
While the acting was lame, Michael Keaton may have played his studliest role to date. Perhaps the only redeeming quality that White Noise has to offer is the stunning archietecture in both of Keaton's abodes. Overall, White Noise leaves one with the morbidly depressing idea that those who die are trapped in a world guarded by three malicious shadows, contriving to trick the living into following the dead to their own graves.
What you bear with you when you go to this movie will affect how much
you enjoy this picture. If you go with an intense curiosity for the
subject of EVP, but have no prior knowledge of it, you will be somewhat
disappointed, as the picture does not explain the the phenomena
adequately. If you go in a bona fide skeptic, you are likely to leave
as a disgruntled skeptic.
As for me, having had prior knowledge on the subject matter, I went to this movie quite eagerly, and was only slightly disappointed. The film did depict a newly widowed man's grief, and the desperation that sometimes follows such a loss. Although not many will go as far as to attempt contact via electronic devices, we can identify with the protagonist's need for closure. for who hasn't longed for that last conversation, kind word or even a farewell from a deceased loved one.
The actors were proficient in their roles, and a number of scenes left me quite shocked and unsettled. That is saying quite a lot, as I've tried my hand at contacting the spirit world before, but have never seen such a frightening experience as that endured by the protagonists.
The only things that detracted from the movie was its ending and its confusing pace. Although the first third of the movie went at an almost too slow pace, it was easy to follow. The latter 2/3s of the program could get confusing, and almost felt like some one stomped into the studio whilst they were filming and said "Come on then! Get a move on! We haven't got until Gabriel's trumpet resounds!" It simply went to quickly, hence my decision to see it twice. Not to spoil anything for those who have not seen this picture yet, but the latter part of the movie left matters to be desired.
The generous rating is warranted however, for creating an interesting movie around something as time-consuming and often unrewarding as EVP is quite a feat in and of itself. True, they have embellished things quite a bit, but if they hadn't, they'd not attract as wide an audience. The special effects were done well, and the director did the splendid job of keeping the audience tense for the greater part of the picture.
If you purchase the DVD, plan to watch it twice or thrice to get the most enjoyment out of it. Remember to watch also with an open mind, and at least some prior knowledge to the EVP phenomenon. Happy watching.
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