Director – Geoffrey Sax
Cast – Michael Keaton, Deborah Kara Unger, Chandra West, Ian McNeice, Sarah Strange, Nicholas Elia, Mike Dopud
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have always had subtle interest in this film ever since I caught a few glimpses of it back in 2005 when I worked at a local movie theater. My interest in the paranormal was the strongest reason behind my “interest”, but bad reviews and unconvincing scenes that I had seen forced me to take my sweet, and I mean SWEET time getting to this one, which took over five years. The end result to me is a bit confusing as I am still unable to say whether or not this movie is decent, or just downright sucks, and that will be open to interpretation by you the reader/viewer. However in my personal opinion I feel that White Noise did enough to warrant a moderate review despite some heavy faults that I will be forever unforgiving towards.
After losing his wife due to an unexplainable auto accident, architect Jonathan Rivers(Michael Keaton; Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns) is confronted by a man who has recorded an EVP transmission from his dead wife. Jonathan is untrusting at first, but is soon warmed up to the shocking revelation that his wife has in fact made a statement that has traveled from the “other side”. Jonathan’s desire to keep in contact with his wife and understand her death gets the best of him, resulting in an obsession that causes more problems that it solves when he gets mixed up with the vengeful dead who wish not to be disturbed.
The idea behind White Noise is an interesting one to me because I have yet to see it used much in the genre. We have seen films where the dead contact the living by various means, but I had not seen one involving the dead using the white noise delivered via electronic devices to communicate with the living, and I found it downright creepy. There seems to be some truth behind some elements of the story, namely the audio files used during the EVP scenes, however how true or not true they are is up to you as I won’t focus on it in this review.
I applaud writer Niall Johnson for giving us such an interesting storyline, and while things got a bit silly towards the final act of the film I still found his story to be much more unique than most of what Hollywood dishes out these days. The first act of the film is incredible, and it does very well in setting the somber tone the film will exhibit throughout. Jonathan losing his darling wife is well written in how his character is developed, and we are thrown into the sad but hopeful world that he lives in with his young son. While this development was wonderful, things get really good when Jonathan decides to finally give the EVP session a go and is bombarded by frightening yet comforting results. The fright lies in the fact that his dead wife is speaking to him, and the comfort lies in her apparent longing for her husband. The love element in this film is not overly high, but it is present throughout most of the film and makes for some good conflict given it is love that drove Jonathan to pursue speaking with his wife much further than he should have taken things. It is soon after made apparent that he has infuriated the dark beings that reside on the other side, and we are given a few good spooks here and there as a result of that. Sadly, once the latter half of the film begins we are given material somewhat reminiscent of The Dead Zone, in which the dead are speaking to Jonathan through EVP and aiding him in stopping the deaths of others before they occur. I found this idea to be quite lame and a cheap way to close out the film, mainly because I wanted to see more malevolent ghost action and less cheap ideas that worked well once or twice and should have been left alone after that.
Director Geoffrey Sax did an OK job directing this piece, with his strongest positives coming from the amazing atmosphere he set for the film. Dark and gloomy cinematography kept things on the solemn level set up by the storyline, and his choices of the sets used were fantastic. Each of the homes used was great, and provided many dark corners that could harbor the evil beings making their way to Jonathan’s world, which was contrasted very nicely with the fact that each of the homes was of luxury status. Equally impressive was Michael Keaton’s performance as Jonathan, in which he showed many levels of different emotions all under the guise of a strong man who is dealing with many harrowing events and hauntings going on around him. Mostly everyone else involved did well on their performances, which is usually expected with a Hollywood horror film as it is about the only thing that they usually get right. Sax’s execution of the horror was very positive in the first half, with excellent usage of the creepy EVP recordings as well as some good visuals coming from the screen set up. Sadly, Sax’s direction suffers when the horror of the second half kicks in, but it was mainly due to the poor choices of CGI usage that were way too cheezy and cliché for my respect. This is not some low-budget underground piece that I can forgive for suffering from a low-budget and relative FX, but a full-on Hollywood production that assumed the worst in the viewer and gave us downright stupid horror when the horror mattered most.
Overall, White Noise is an OK watch that comes with a cool premise, great acting, and good cinematography, but story issues and directing woes kept this from being anything worthwhile. On a boring night alone you may find a few decent spooks during the first half of the film, but be prepared to shut things off and hit the hay when the second half kicks in.