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Thursday, August 4, 2005

The Casual Critic — White Noise

I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to scarey movies. So, I made a point not to watch White Noise at night. I needn't have bothered.

Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) gets pulled into the world of Electronic Voice Phenomenon as he grieves the death of his wife. He soon becomes obsessed with this hi-tech version of connecting with the dead, and even begins to essentially see the near future via EVP messages.

A film that starts with some solid character development, White Noise simply gets lost in an attempt to add a scary, mysterious ending that even the director (or someone involved with the final edit) admits in a DVD extra isn't exactly clear. Though it's considered a horror film, only a few cheap, make-you-jump scenes are as close as the film gets to being scarey.

Again, it starts out decent enough. The character reluctantly enters the world of EVP, and seems to miss signs of a hoax. (In fact, I still think that would have worked well as his wife had been famous, and her death was a well-publized mystery for a time.) There's even plenty of reason to buy into the obsession he develops.

But, then, Rivers starts to get messages about tragic events that haven't occurred yet. He starts to comply with requests to intercede, and the film flirts with the absurd. For a while I was expecting Keaton to jump in the Batmobile, and foil the Joker yet again.

The film came off as being produced by EVP enthusiasts. A few DVD extras were essentially a short documentary of a couple that apparently have devoted their lives to EVP. It's too easy to mock what they do, but the basic concept lends itself to folks who want to believe. They literally tape hours of white noise and play it back to hear voices of the dead. These folks were actually asking the voices questions, and thanking them for communicating!

Isn't there a joke about it being ok to talk to yourself, but when you start answering . . . ah, forget it. (Ok, so it's not too easy to mock what they do.)

The DVD extras at least let you hear what the EVP folks consider messages from the beyond. Personally, I didn't hear anything a typical Radio Shack recorder taping an empty room wouldn't produce.

White Noise just doesn't have much to offer. Skip it.

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