The title “White Noise” refers to electronic voice phenomena (EVP). Within ghost hunting Electronic Voice Phenomena are sounds found on electronic recordings that are interpreted as spirit voices that have been either unintentionally recorded or intentionally requested and recorded. Konstantīns Raudive, who popularized the idea in the 1970s, described EVP as typically brief, usually the length of a word or short phrase.
White noise can best be described as a super natural horror/thriller film that was directed by Geoffrey Sax. The concept for the movie is intriguing and one that has a lot of potential to be very creepy if done right, with that in mind and Michael Keaton starring in one of his first leading roles since Batman what could possibly go wrong?
Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) is a successful architect and lives a peaceful life with his wife Anna (Chandra West) until her unexpected disappearance. I thought the introduction to the characters in this movie was handled very poorly. Other than Jonathan showing us how sexually attracted he is to Anna, you’re never given the impression that there is much there in the relationship in terms of love. The reason why this is a problem is that there isn’t any real development for Anna’s character or their relationship so it’s hard understand why Jonathan would even be that torn up about her going missing.
However, Keaton does his best to look miserable about the situation and almost manages a tear but not quite.
Eventually, he is contacted by Raymond Price (Ian McNeice), who claims that his own son had died and that he has been able to communicate with him. At this point Anna has not been confirmed to be alive or dead so naturally Jonathan is offended when Raymond claims to have recorded messages from Anna through electronic voice phenomena (EVP).
While Jonathan is initially dismissive and angered, he later learns about his wife’s tragic drowning. You see, Anna decided to attempt to change a tire while standing dangerously close to a river bank, while attempting this she slipped on a rock and drowned. One again, Keaton gives another of his best attempts at squeezing out a tear, he’s really going to miss that ass.
Desperate, he begins to believe that the recorded voice is indeed that of his wife. Jonathan becomes obsessed with trying to contact her himself, despite warnings from a psychic, who tries to tell him how the recording can attract other, unwanted entities. A woman named Sarah Tate (Deborah Kara Unger), who also came to Raymond for his EVP work because she lost her fiancé, befriends Jonathan.
Poor old Raymond is found dead inside his wrecked house which leads Jonathan and Sarah to look into some of his previous research. It turns out that Raymond had regularly come into contact with unwanted entities and they left him some quite unsavoury messages such as “you fat bastard”.
Regardless of the fact that Raymond was clearly strangled by these entities, Jonathan begins his new favourite hobby of watching hours and hours of absolutely nothing while completely neglecting his son. It becomes apparent that Jonathan is being followed by three demons that’re attracted by his obsession with EVP, especially when he begins to make some breakthroughs.
Jonathan finds that some of the messages coming through are from people who are not yet dead, but may soon be. He is led by one of the messages from Anna to a car accident and manages to save a baby from the wreckage but the mother is lost.
At that woman’s funeral, which Jonathan and Sarah both attend, Jonathan approaches the husband and tells him about what happened. Initially the husband thanks Jonathan but then suddenly gets extremely angry when Jonathan informs him that his wife had contacted him prior to the accident via EVP. I can understand him being offended by this notion but the man just saved your child’s life from a wrecked car, risking his own in the process.
Afterwards, Jonathan sees images of another person, a missing woman named Mary Freeman, while working with his EVP devices. Sarah is later seriously injured by a fall from a balcony while possessed by the demons, that incident which was foreshadowed by Sarah’s image being among those on the EVP devices. This is probably the only actual moment in the film that I would consider to be creepy, Sarah seeing herself saying “it hurts” in the static video signifies that she’s going to die. You’ll never guess what though, she doesn’t die! Don’t ask me…..
Jonathan locates the site of his wife’s death by following signs on yet more recordings. The messages are seriously cryptic though which only leads Jonathan to get pissed at the lack of information and shout at the screen, it’s unintentionally hilarious. Jonathan finds a set of computers and electronic equipment on site. A construction worker from Jonathan’s company has been doing his own EVP work and his holding Mary captive. Basically, this worker or serial killer has been in cahoots with the three demons that have set up the whole thing to lure Jonathan to the location.
The 3 demons immediately swoop down and torture Jonathan, snapping his arms and legs with a fatality of causing him to fall to his death. Seeing Jonathan lay dead with his leg twisted made me laugh, not only because it looked funny but also because it ultimately meant that it was all fairly pointless.
Even after witnessing the harrowing ordeal sustained by Michael Keaton, I was totally unaffected by his demise. Up until the credits I patiently waited for something, anything of substance to connect me to the characters’ story, but such relief never came. Sure, there was one or two heart-stopper moments or “jump scares”, but only because loud noises tend to do that to the dozing viewer.
Surprisingly, I found one of the biggest issues with White Noise to be Michael Keaton. I thought his overall performance was unconvincing and lacked any real emotion even though he is doing his best Bruce Willis from The Sixth Sense impression. It would be easy to accuse Michael of phoning in some of his scenes, not only because it’s plainly obvious but because he even admits to doing so in the DVD commentary along with apologizing to the director. Keaton is a much better actor then shown in this film and he definitely can’t take all of the blame.
The biggest crime that White Noise commits is that it’s boring. I think the concept is solid and could definitely be used much more effectively in making a very scary movie but this just isn’t the case. White Noise isn’t scary; I don’t think the creators of this film truly wanted to make a scary movie which is a shame.
After watching days and days of static video without anything happening, even Jonathan gets frustrated and angry at the lack of action which is a feeling that many viewers will share.
A few questions arose in my mind while watching White Noise and the first is, why does Jonathan keep the fact that he knows a person is going to die to himself? I know authorities might consider him to be simply insane if he tried to explain but he has actual evidence that it’s true. If he didn’t go to the construction site alone he might have survived….
Why are the ghosts only capable of connecting to our world via electronic waves? It’s just seriously impractical as their messages are difficult to decipher and quite incoherent, why not try a note pad and pen guys? The overall plot is just too complicated and there are too many unanswered questions, it left me feeling a bit like this –
White Noise is at least fairly intriguing and has some nice cinematography but it all leads to something that is ultimately very disappointing especially considering its solid concept.