White Noise borrows much from the successful cycle of modern horror films. There is a tremendous likeness to both The Ring and FearDotCom. The use of a television screen for eerie f/x and a few shocks reminds us of the former, while the torture of the kidnapped victim in industrial and dank surroundings is taken right out of the latter. White Noise has some wonderfully disturbing moments. The atmosphere is rank with just enough possibility to be truly scary at times. Michael Keaton adds that element of respectability and believability which carries a weak script much farther than it deserves. I should also point out that the cinematography is simply brilliant. Transitions are masterfully crafted into a stunning visual experience. I expected this film to disappoint and it did; however, it was not quite the disaster I was anticipating.
The idea of EVP, Electronic Voice Phenomenon, has been around since about the 1970’s. The film’s use of the television is a new fictional wrinkle that obviously makes for more compelling drama. White Noise quickly leaves the arena of the EVP world and enters a mythos of its very own. It is this diversion that creates the biggest problems I have with the film. It seems Keaton sees not only dead folks but those soon to be dead. We are never given any explanation as to how this new development occurs. Normally that’s not a problem, but the film appears to go to great lengths to make sure we understand the principles of EVP, then fails us once the story ventures into new ground. The ending is a completely unsatisfying. I don’t need to be told everything, but would like to have more answers than questions when the credits roll. It seems three really bad dead guys are pissed off, but we never find out who they are or why they’re so angry.
Jonathan Rivers (Keaton) seems to have a perfect life. He’s a hugely successful architect and is married to a wonderful and famous wife (West). His life changes when his wife disappears and is later found dead. A stranger stalks him and eventually reveals that he has been communicating with Rivers’ dead wife. Skeptical at first, Rivers eventually becomes obsessed with Electronic Voice Phenomenon, which appears to allow communication with the dead. Of course, there are costs.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very soft. I had to really crank up my system to get any volume. The subs appeared to be stagnant throughout. At first I suspected a problem with the system until I began to watch the extras and nearly blasted myself out of my home theatre seat. Ambient sounds are impressive as far as separation and use of rears is concerned. Dialogue is clear and centered, but you really need to turn it up. I ran my amp at three times the normal settings. I suppose the soft sound did make the “jump” moments a bit more effective.
White Noise is presented in a beautiful aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This print is nearly flawless. Colors are not bright but are incredibly sharp. Blacks are about as deep and shadows as detailed as I’ve seen. Blue tints dominate some of the night shots, and this effect is reproduced admirably here. There isn’t a trace of grain or artifact of any kind. This is one of those transfers that seem worth watching even if the film itself is sub par. You could balance a monitor with this DVD.
Surprisingly, none of the extras, with the exception of the mentioned commentary and a handful of deleted scenes, have anything to do with the making of this film.The deleted scenes appear to add nothing and are not fully produced. There seems to be little if any foley work on any of them.
“Making Contact: EVP Experts” Even though another feature tells us we’ll hear actual recordings more of them are to be found on this feature. You’ll meet folks grieving over lost loved ones who have managed to capture what they believe to be their voices on tape after they died. Mostly the messages amount to “I’m OK” or “I’m alive” types of short phrases.
“Recording The Afterlife At Home” OK, so you’ve seen the film and want to get some pointers from grandpa about cooking his famous meatballs. The only problem is Grandpa hasn’t been alive for a few years. Well. You’re in luck. It seems all you need is a cheap cassette recorder and some running water and before you know it you’ll be munchin’ on that lost recipe in no time. At least that’s what this feature would like you to believe.Me, I’m still waiting on that recipe.
Finally “Hearing Is Believing: Actual EVP Recordings” follows a couple of con artists through a haunted house as they collect moving messages from the beyond. Good for a laugh.
It seems everyone these days is talking to dead people. Since the trend-setting The Sixth Sense,” talking with dead folks is a regular industry both on film and on network television where there will be at least two new series next year on the subject. White Noise and its advertising campaign claims to offer the “real thing”.
OK. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a skeptic. Hopefully you’re not thinking of buying this DVD for pointers on chatting with a few old relatives. I’d say it’s a harmless rental for those rainy nights when there’s nothing else on. Keaton fans will enjoy him in a little bit of a different role. If you happen to catch Aunt Mary on channel 2? “It happens sometimes.”