White Noise

White Noise

The film makers seem to have felt that White Noise was not enough for a horror flick and they introduce a supernatural plot

White Noise

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From the earliest recorded history man has been obsessed with speaking to the dead. Many con men have made rather good livings tricking people into believing that they could reach beyond the pale to chat with dead loved ones.

While traditional methods for this ‘contact’ included such props as the Ouija boards, crystal balls and the like it was only a matter of time until someone would try to come up with a more modern affectation. The film ‘White Noise’ makes this attempt. Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) is an architect who loses his young, second wife Anna (Chandra West) in what initially appears to be an accident. The typical device of having her pregnant is naturally employed here just to add to the emotional impact on the lead character. Grief stricken, Jonathan begins to hear something in the static and white noise that surrounds all of us each day. Most of our electronic gadgets and devices produce a hiss or other indecipherable sound, from cell phones to our televisions and radios this noise has become part of the background sound track to our technologically oriented lives. To Jonathan it is a gateway to contact his beloved late wife. He begins to research the phenomena and discovers something called electronic voice phenomena (EVP). A quick Google search shows that this is something that people actually take seriously as reflected in White Noise by the introduction of EVP experts Raymond (Ian McNeice) who conveniently convinces Jonathan that it is his wife trying to contact him from the beyond. Along with fellow EVP researcher Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) they delve into what is happening to Rivers. The film makers seem to have felt that White Noise was not enough for a horror flick and they introduce a supernatural plot that entangles Rivers.

White Noise utilizes too many hackney plot devices such as having the first EVP occurrence at 2:30am, the exact moment Anna met her inevitable fate. The use of EVP is not even original; does anyone out there remember Poltergeist? A little blonde girl stating ‘They’re here’ was a lot spookier than anything offered up here. The writer also crams in a sub plot that the living, close to an untimely demise, reaches out for rescue. White Noise could have been vastly improved if they visited the film editor a little more. The story rambles a bit with too much exposition which only serves to break the tension. White Noise tries to be and Americanized version of the now popular Asian supernatural technology craze, such as the Ring and The Grudge, but the writer just didn’t manager to get a firm hold on what makes this genre interesting, a growing threat. What was offered in the way of danger is spread out a little too thinly to really rivet the audience to their seats.

On the more positive side for those that are die hard fans of the horror genre there are some good moments in White Noise. There is a comfort factor here, knowing that there is a supernatural force targeting Jonathan. There is a factor at work here that despite the flaws will draw you in. You just know that the happy, loving and beautiful wife is doomed. She might as well have a banner stating ‘victim’ over her head. In a film like White Noise happiness is a harbinger of impending doom, we know and it makes us what to see what happens next.

One thing that really works in White Noise is the cast. I have heard many people note that White Noise was a waste of such talent but I prefer to think of it as a talented cast can make the best of almost any material provided. Michael Keaton is one of those actors that have the talent to entertain the audience. This may sound simple but he has taken on such a wide range of roles that I doubt that there is a script out there that he can not bring to the screen. Keaton has the everyday Joe quality to his persona. Most of us know a person like him, affable, fun to be around yet far deeper than he lets on. His presence in White Noise affords the necessary emotional connection with the audience, we rapidly find ourselves caring about the plight of Jonathan, not so much because of the script but because Keaton can swell the role. Deborah Kara Unger may have found her first roles due to her model looks but she has become an actress of true ability. She is willing to take on the off-beat roles, taking a chance to play characters that are not in the normal realm of experience. She centers the role of the EVP researcher and makes us consider that this is a topic that some seriously investigate. Chandra West is just starting to come into her own with her acting. Although she has been in the field since about 1991 she has paid her dues with mostly horror and action films, typically the eye candy blonde that is fodder for the bad guys. Recently, I was impressed with her acting skills on NYPD Blue where she held a pivotal role in a main story arc. In White Noise, she is note afforded the opportunity to really display such talent.

Geoffrey Sax has had a notable career, mostly in television. This appears to have impacted his style in directing a feature length film. Used to the episodic and mini series format he has potential but needs to adjust his pacing to flow more evenly in a film. White Noise is paced unevenly, if tightened up a bit it would have been more successful. The audience needs to be constantly challenged instead of sitting through numerous breaks in the action. While this works for a mini series where a day or more passes between installments for White Noise it falls a little short. Sax does have a great eye for framing a scene. His use of composition is great as is his use of lighting to help foster the desired spooky atmosphere. Sax has great potential and I do look forward to his future works.

Universal appears to be committed to presenting every DVD they master in the best way possible. They did release White Noise in both ‘full screen pan and scan’ as well as an ‘anamorphic widescreen’. Considering the detail oriented composition of each frame the full screen variation should be ignored in favor of the original widescreen version. The color balance is often pushed to the dark side of the palette using tone to help set the emotional stage. There are no perceivable defects to be found. The Dolby 5.1 audio is very well done. This is especially important since subtle use of noise and other sounds are integral to the plot. The rear speaker adds a supernatural feel to the film and provides a full sound stage. While White Noise is admittedly flawed it does make for a great beer and pizza flick to watch some rainy night with friends.

Movie Review of White Noise by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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