"White Noise" was the box office surprise of the weekend, raking in $24 million, about three times as much as most analysts predicted. The news is especially good for Michael Keaton, who has all but dropped off the face of the planet since a string of lousy films in the late 1990's. Of course, the real question is whether "White Noise" is good for the audience.
I like Michael Keaton. Much like Kevin Costner, I've been rooting for him to make his spectacular comeback for quite some time now. He's a good actor and recognizable by just about everyone, but ever since "Jack Frost" he seems to have shied away from making movies. He did appear last year in the dud "First Daughter" (coming to DVD on Tuesday), but come on, Michael!
In "White Noise," he plays Jonathan Rivers, a successful architect who finds his world turned upside down when his wife Anna, played by Chandra West, dies in an apparent accident. Grief-stricken, he starts to hear noises over his radio and even receives a few phone calls from Anna's cell, even though her phone is turned off and in one of his drawers. His curiosity leads him to the home of Raymond Price (Ian McNeice), where he is introduced to the concept of EVP, or electronic voice phenomenon. Along with a grieving widow played by Deborah Kara Unger, he begins to search among the white noise for sounds and images of his dead wife, and that search soon turns into an obsession. However, as he begins to stumble across his wife's pattern, he begins to see images of other things - things that if anyone else saw, they would turn off the monitors in a hurry.
"White Noise" is a creepy and tense thriller that has plenty of scares and eerie moments. Keaton spends much of his time sitting in front of several monitors and recording devices, but the movie is surprisingly effective in making it work. While even the voice of Anna is creepy (since she's dead, after all), the movie does get pretty harrowing as other voices and images begin to come through. Any sane person would stop immediately, but Keaton persists without any rhyme or reason.
Unfortunately, where there is good, there is bad, and I'm not talking about the ghosts. While the movie is generally pretty creepy, the ending is pathetically bad to the point where it destroys the story. The entire movie is built around EVP. It is explained that dead people can contact us through this means of communication. Yet, the ending completely disregards this and instead makes the ghosts much more than that, so the ending is nothing more than a few cheap CGI effects. Furthermore, it is so anticlimactic and fails to explain even the simplest of things (or at least explains them in a really disappointing way) that the entire movie is ruined. SPOILER ALERT: Specifically, the three ghosts are never explained, and the way they are utilized in the end is just piss poor. Furthermore, once Keaton's character realizes a serial killer murdered his wife (which is pretty easy to guess), he doesn't even get a chance to fight the man. And if the ghosts needed the killer to do their evil deeds for them, how are they able to show themselves without EVP? END SPOILER ALERT.
"White Noise" could have used more explanation, especially about the not-so-good ghosts. Early on in the movie, Keaton encounters some very angry ghosts, but McNeice's character fails to tell him anything about the creepy voice, nor does Keaton ask about it. Later on, while the characters are searching through McNeice's records, a ghost conspiracy is alluded to, but the movie never goes into enough detail. More than anything else, though, the ending is so rushed and disappointing it seems as though the director ran out of money and decided to turn what could have been a tense fifteen minutes into a dull five.
"White Noise" is a creepy thriller with some good, if not cheap, scares, but it ends so badly I can only recommend it for rental purposes. After all, if you're out to get scared, this movie may do the trick, but if you're looking for a sensible plot, you may want to look elsewhere.
A surprise hit in January, "White Noise" had a much larger opening than anyone could have expected. Coming soon to DVD, "White Noise" comes with several special features that provide more insight into the EVP "phenomenon" that inspired the film. Unfortunately, unless you wholeheartedly buy into the EVP stuff, three of the featurettes will come off as pretty cheesy. In fact, all three featurettes are about the same, as they interview EVP experts as they talk about their experiences, how it works and how you can do it at home. The subject is interesting and shouldn't be disregarded without a thought, but the experts obviously want the world to accept their findings while it is impossible to prove on a Hollywood DVD. One featurette basically follows a husband and wife EVP team as they walk around a house and talk with ghosts - of course, the camera never captures the ghosts' responses, but at least these people have little high-tech monitors so they know when they're in the presence of a spirit. Whether it's real or not, the featurettes do nothing more than to make these EVP people seem goofy.
The only movie-specific special feature is a collection of deleted scenes, but most of them seem like very miniscule alterations of the final product. An alternate ending is included (and boy was I hoping for one since the ending in the actual movie is God-awful), but I couldn't tell what was different.
If you liked "White Noise," this DVD may be a good one to pick up for the sake of scaring yourself or friends (just don't bother with the last twenty minutes or so), but as far as special features go, this one has nothing exceptional to offer.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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