3.25.2005

White Noise

Michael Keaton made a boo-boo; he never should have agreed to star in this film. Maybe it was the studio’s fault for purchasing the script. Possibly the blame falls on the intern for bad coverage and the executive story editor who was too busy to give the script a quick read through before passing it on to the top. Whatever the cause may be it’s obvious that “White Noise” is a first draft screenplay that should not have been sent to production.

The story edges towards a psychological thriller but never quite makes it to the edge. The movie begins in suburban America with an upper middle-class family, the step-mom, the son from the first marriage, and the possible baby on the way. It’s an average day for Jonathon (played by Michael Keaton) and Anna Rivers until the Anna disappears and inevitably turns up dead. Raymond Price dapples in EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) and approaches Jonathon claiming to have heard his wife speak to him through the white static found in electronic devices when signals are not present. From this point on in the story, Jonathon becomes obsessed with listening for signs from his wife through the static noise on televisions, neglecting his son on weekend visits.

His deceased wife and other spirits contact Jonathon through the static. In the beginning, this concept is interesting, but Jonathon buys several television sets and devotes a lot of screen time to watching and recording static. He is then led to other victims before their death and attempts to save them. There’s very little danger until his friend flashes on one of the screens. Jonathon attempts to keep her safe from death, but she almost dies anyway.

Where’s the thrill? It’s in cheap scare tactics and advanced CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). What you see is what you get. The movie is insulting by eliminating audience intelligence, and even inserts a flashback cut to remind the audience of a character seen earlier.

The ending is coarsely glued together at the last second. Through the static, Jonathon is led to the truth of his wife’s death, which is of course in an abandoned warehouse by the scene of her death. Even less profound is the EVP equipment and torture devices used by the murderer of several victims who claims he was told to kill them by evil spirits that pollute the static. There’s no logical ending to this story, so the script resorts to a deus ex machina with a cop thrown in at the end of the story who, through no intelligent investigation, finds the killer and disposes of him.

The dead contacting the living through EVP is a solid basis for a thriller, but the story lacks logical plot points that support the theory of EVP and enough scares to keep an audience on their toes. With a script like this, it’s no wonder that the director resorted to fancy editing supplemented with an eerie soundtrack.

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