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White Noise (DVD)

Starring Michael (Beetlejuice) Keaton, Chandra (The Salton Sea) West, Deborah Kara (Silent Hill) Unger, Ian (Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls) McNeice

Directed by Geoffrey Sax


I guess Universal should get points for trying, huh? They attempted to cash in on all the spooky ghost stories coming out of Hollywood and making all sorts of money, as well as possibly re-vitalize the sagging career of Michael Keaton. Instead, what they did was bore the hell out of the audience and make everyone wonder why Keaton even bothered with the part in the first place.

White Noise suffers form that all-too-familiar curse in Hollywood: cool idea, bad execution. I have a friend that’s been wanting to make a movie similar to what White Noise is about for years now, so when the movie came out, he was a bit pissed that yet another idea had been swept away by guys in suits that care more about the bottom line than actual storytelling. Luckily for my buddy, the film turned out to be the worst example of how to handle a tale of the phenomenon of EVP, so maybe there’s still hope for his film.

EVP: Electronic Voice Phenomena. It’s a well-documented belief that states through the use of the noise all around us, mainly machinery and electronics, the dead have a way of communicating with the living from the other side. In the film Jonathan Rivers’ (Keaton) wife dies early on, and he’s lost without her. He still has his son from another marriage, but nothing is the same without his wonderful mate. A man who specializes in EVP named Raymond Price (McNeice) contacts him shortly after the funeral to let him know he thinks he heard his wife’s voice (she was a best-selling novelist, so it was all covered by the media). Rivers decides to try and deal with the grief on his own.

A few months later he changes his mind and goes back to Price, who shows him the ins and outs of contacting the dead before he’s mysteriously killed. Doing some movie land-style research (i.e., reading through some journals), Rivers finds that something bad was coming through the communications and begins to think he may be their next target.

There are some creepy moments, some good uses of sounds, but overall White Noise is just an instantly forgettable film, as is Keaton’s character. He’s either fallen way out of practice or had a horrible script to deal with (I’m guessing the later) because his performance is the very definition of “phoned in”. The final reveal of what the bad things are and their motivations makes little to no sense, and of course some bad CGI comes into play, as it is the flavor of the week in Tinsel Town.

Okay, so the movie is dull, but a lot of times a studio can make up for that with a good DVD presentation, right? Right. But not this time.

Audio and video are what you’d expect, all well and fine. The extras that could have made this a kick-ass disc instead only manage to make it even more forgettable. First up we have “Making Contact: EVP Experts”, a montage of clips from a meeting for the AA EVP (The American Association for EVP) and (supposedly) actual EVP recordings that sound a lot more authentic than the ones in White Noise do. The ones in the movie are just voices heard through static, obviously the actors. The sounds heard within this feature sound like what EVP should — white noise being manipulated to convey a message. Some of the titular experts are interviewed, testimonies are made, but at the end of the day you probably won’t believe in it any more or less than you did going it.

That’s fine because there’s also “Recording the After Life at Home” to try and convert you. I shit you not, that’s the title of the feature. It focuses on two of the founders of the AA EVP discussing how, you guessed it, you too can contact the dead with simple household items. While tempting to try myself at home, the way the whole package is put together reminds me of elementary school, and not in a nice way.

Still not a believer? Then check out “Hearing is Believing: Actual EVP Sessions”, in which the same couple from the previous feature go to a castle in the Hollywood Hills and a nightclub in Chicago (that I used to drive past almost every day one summer) and try and get the dead to talk to ‘em. Ultimately pretty much nothing comes of it, and the poor guy they got to host it seems like he’s trying way to hard to be interested. This is the longest feature, clocking it at just under 15 minutes.

Finally, there are some deleted scenes, all of which were on the cutting room floor for a reason. They are just extensions of existing scenes or more pointless exposition, really, including an extended ending that helped me like the movie even less, if you can believe it.

Final analysis? White Noise is not a bad movie like some have made it out to be; it’s just not very interesting. No one that made or starred in it seemed to really care about what they were doing, and there’s even further evidence of this if you notice the exclusion of anything having to do with the cast and/or crew among the DVD features. It’s just a dull movie, and unfortunately the DVD does nothing to help fix that.


1 out of 5

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Johnny Butane