If White Noise is to be believed—and this middling horror film really does want to be taken seriously—then TV’s psychic medium John Edward is no longer needed; all that’s required to communicate with the dead is a television, a VCR, and many hours with which to stare at cathode ray tube-generated static until recently deceased loved ones decide to get in touch. This method of receiving messages from the beyond is known as Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), and Geoffrey Sax’s ghost story—from its opening definition of the paranormal procedure to its closing statistics about how many EVP cases involve evil spirits—exhibits a puzzlingly earnest belief in this pseudo-scientific technique’s legitimacy. Such a humorless approach to supernatural spookiness certainly hampers this mildly creepy story about an architect, Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton), who begins receiving mysterious messages from his dead wife (Chandra West) via the TV and kitchen radio. Keaton’s dull Rivers—a man unceremoniously shaken from his cozy life of upper-class comfort—wholeheartedly buys into EVP the second he hears his wife’s voice on a feedback-filled audio cassette, but the actor, a look of exhausted disinterest permanently affixed to his lined face, seems decidedly more skeptical about the plausibility of such hokum. Sax thankfully avoids telegraphing all of his film’s sudden jolts with portentous music, and when his camera isn’t tediously pointed into a TV set filled with white snow, the director comes up with a few isolated images of ominous dread: a worried Keaton, waiting up all night for his wife to return home, stuck in the corner of the frame while a foreground clock ticks heavily; a glassy-eyed EVP devotee’s (Deborah Kara Unger) graceful backward dive off a hotel balcony. Yet courtesy of a slip-shod script by Niall Johnson that supplies neither believable characters (including Ian McNeice’s Raymond Price, who’s more of a cultish mouthpiece for EVP than an actual person) nor any reasonable explanation as to how EVP works or why it might be dangerous, White Noise‘s scares mostly wind up lost in transmission.
- Universal Pictures
- 111 min
- Geoffrey Sax
- Niall Johnson
- Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice, Sarah Strange, Nicholas Ilia, Mike Dopud
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