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Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 2%
Average: 26%
Pretty Bad: 27%
Total Crap45%

10 reviews, 40 user ratings

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White Noise
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by Peter Sobczynski

"This generation's 'The Dead Talk Back'!"
3 stars

Why is it that whenever the dead figure out a way to communicate with the living to inform them of incredibly important future events in movies, they always choose to do so in the most oblique way possible? Everything that they say seems to be an intricate riddle delivered in syntax that only Yoda could figure out; you would think that if they were somehow able to bridge the chasm between life and death, they could do so in a more plain-spoken manner. For example, imagine all the time that could have been saved in “Signs” if the dying woman, instead of spouting off that “Swing away” nonsense, had simply said, “Honey, a bunch of aliens that are allergic to water is coming to invade Earth . . . never mind why they would come to a planet covered with water. The important thing is, tell your brother to be ready to beat on the Gorblatt with a baseball bat when the time comes.” If loved ones insist on contacting me from another dimension to foretell the future, just come out and tell me the important stuff-lottery numbers, whether I wind up dating Angelina Jolie or Keira Knightley, those kinds of things-and keep the Yoda-like riddles to yourselves.

These thoughts were going through my mind while watching “White Noise,” another film where the dead manage to contact the living but no one is able to properly appreciate this miracle because what they have said is so damn inscrutable. Of course, if they did that, the plot would be over in about fifteen minutes and there would be nowhere else to go. On the other hand, since the plot itself is the least interesting aspect of the film, this might not have been a bad idea; once again, this is one of those movies that presents a potentially intriguing idea and somehow contrives to dumb it down so that it can still involve chase scenes, races against the clocks and serial killers.

Michael Keaton stars as Jonathan Rivers and when we first see him, he is going through one of those movie mornings that is so normal and mundane that we begin mentally counting off the minutes until his world is turned upside-down forever. Right on schedule, his author wife Anna (Chandra West) disappears and, after several weeks, she turns up dead. (She must be an especially famous author since her disappearance seemingly merits around-the-clock news coverage.) A few months later, bereaved Jonathan is stopped by a strange man (Ian McNeice) who asks him if he wants to communicate with his dead wife. It seems that he is a student of Electronic Voice Phenomenon, a process through which the dead supposedly are able to contact the living via the static generated by televisions, radios and the like. At first, Jonathan is skeptical but after about six seconds, he begins hearing messages that are so clear and distinct that there can be no doubt that they really are coming from beyond the grave.

In other words, “White Noise” is one of those movies that takes a crackpot theory and presents it as a gospel truth that everyone on screen believes in wholeheartedly-the only difference between something like this and the old Sunn Classics exploitation films like “Beyond and Back” and “Hanger 18 is that “White Noise” does it with a higher-caliber budget and cast. The problem with this approach is that it is so eager to make us believe that EVP actually exists that it sacrifices a lot of potential dramatic tension. Wouldn’t it have been more effective if Jonathan isn’t completely convinced right off the bat and that there was just a hint that he was so desperate to once again hear from his wife that he might be forcing himself to “hear” her in the static? Regardless, these early scenes don’t hurt too much, mostly because of the welcome return to the screen of the too-long-gone Michael Keaton, whose effective low-key performance almost manages to sell much of this nonsense.

The problem with “White Noise” is that the filmmakers apparently think that the notion of being able to communicate with the dead just isn’t compelling enough on its own. Instead, they turn Jonathan’s wife into some kind of cryptic police scanner from beyond the grave who gives her husband incredibly vague clues to things that are about to happen so that he can eventually decode them and arrive in the ta-daa nick of time to prevent babies from being crushed and the like. If that isn’t enough (and it certainly should have been), they even throw in a serial killer hunting down EVP followers for no readily apparent reason. This particular development is especially unsatisfying-not just because it makes no sense (I defy anyone to fully explain the ending to me) but it is done so arbitrarily that when the killer is finally unmasked, it is a person who has appeared so infrequently that the film is actually forced to supply a flashback to the character’s one previous bit appearance just to remind viewers that the person actually had previously appeared.

Despite the nice Keaton performance, “White Noise”is the kind of early-January dippiness that is seen by people starved for any new film and then quickly forgotten and the self-serious tone of the proceedings never quite disguises the fact that this is little more than an expensive (and less satisfying) version of the MST3K classic “The Dead Talk Back.” For a film like this to work, it should be realistic enough to be plausible and yet convincing enough to make even the most skeptical viewers consider the possibilities that EVP actually exists. By the end, however, I think all will be agreeing that the characters would have been a lot happier in the long run if they had switched to digital cable and satellite radio.

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originally posted: 01/07/05 16:13:19
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User Comments

9/19/13 Marmite I was 90% sure I hated this movie before the climax. I ended up 200% sure. 1 stars
4/11/10 Andrew, Amy and Gaelan shite, shite and more shite. The ending was terrible! I've never said WTF as much! 1 stars
11/27/09 Martin Smith I liked the concept but thought the characters were weak and pointless 3 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Ugg boring!! 2 stars
3/31/08 Raika Any chance those three ghosts can attack the director? 1 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann The ending was the biggest WTF moment in the history of American cinema.Absolute poo! 1 stars
8/19/06 Beau pointless scenes, lacked scary themes and trash that should neva have made it to the cinema 1 stars
8/14/06 Sharon its sucks!!! they should have never made this movie I wasted my time and $7!!! I hate it!! 1 stars
4/30/06 Ben W I was a bit clueless, I really wanted to know who the three ghosts were. 2 stars
3/27/06 Doremimi Would someone please cast Michael Keaton in a decent movie? This is getting ridiculous. 1 stars
1/28/06 chris f good movie worth watching 4 stars
1/03/06 Wiseman it was good half of the begining, But what the hell was the end all about? dumb as hell! 1 stars
11/07/05 Count Blah I want the wasted time back. I could have slept instead. . . . 1 stars
9/20/05 Mickey This is like watching a foreign film with no subtitles!! 1 stars
9/02/05 Teh Gret one I really didn't get who was the guy in the chicken suit? Poo movie LOL111111111111 1 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Poltigeist treated this subject more effectively, but it has it's moments. 3 stars
7/06/05 Indrid Cold The story is somewhat weak and unsatisfying, but not bad overall. 3 stars
7/03/05 kanga311 It totally left me hanging. Glad I didn't spend $10 at the theater to see it! 2 stars
6/09/05 camille What was that about? 2 stars
6/08/05 Darryl Watched this same night as "Boogeyman" and this wasn't as scary. 3 stars
6/05/05 Monday Morning Don't waste your time except to ogle Deborah Unger, an ultrababe if I ever saw one. 1 stars
5/25/05 Bart michael keaton is THIS desperate?? I mean..did he even READ the absurd ending? Kill me now! 2 stars
5/24/05 Doug Awfully done, yet by the end you'll be too ANGRY to laugh at it. 2 stars
5/23/05 Victor Meldrew What the hell was that ending all about?! I just didn't understand it! 1 stars
5/23/05 Tammy Horrible film too confusing to be interesting 1 stars
5/20/05 Christy Schultz Look at all the time I will never get back 1 stars
5/19/05 wendy rogers This movie started out ok and then the ending got alittle crazy. It was ok overall. 3 stars
5/19/05 ad could be worse i guess 2 stars
4/15/05 shatonjia Am I allowed to sue for false advertising on a movie preview? 1 stars
2/08/05 Richard Linxwiler Liked it, a scary movie with an actual plot. 4 stars
2/06/05 Real This was a really bad movie. The end totally sucks. 1 stars
1/30/05 Christine It was an okay movie 3 stars
1/29/05 clarance the cobra LICKS BALLS 1 stars
1/28/05 New Jersey Rules There hasn't been a good horror movie since The Blair Witch. 1 stars
1/14/05 Al Guy Not scary. The ad was scarier. 2 stars
1/11/05 Aaron Brown Has its flaws but is still an okay movie. 3 stars
1/09/05 Steve Michaud Staggeringly inept; devoid of chills, atmosphere, logic, or entertainment value 1 stars
1/09/05 Meryl As a student of EVP...this made me weep. Television static? WTF? 2 stars
1/08/05 Kristina Williams Batman sees dead people 3 stars
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  07-Jan-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-May-2005



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