People have always searched for a way to communicate with the other side--fascinated, motivated, driven to find a way to connect with loved ones who have passed on.
Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) is the process through which the dead communicate with the living through household recording devices. These extraordinary recordings--captured by people all over the world, in their homes, with a simple tape or video recorder--seem to confirm what many of us have dared to believe: it is possible for the dead to communicate with us.
And all we have to do is listen.
Michael Keaton plays successful architect Jonathan Rivers, whose peaceful existence is shattered by the unexplained disappearance and death of his wife Anna (Chandra West). Jonathan is eventually contacted by a man (Ian McNeice) who claims to be receiving messages from Anna through EVP. At first skeptical, Jonathan then becomes convinced of the messages' validity, and is soon obsessed with trying to contact her on his own. His further explorations into EVP and the accompanying supernatural messages unwittingly open a door to another world, allowing something uninvited into his life.
With its intriguing notion of communicating with the dead through common, everyday electronics and the critical use of strange audio, I had hoped that White Noise would at least be on par with 2002's The Mothman Prophecies. Unfortunately, the atmospheric and unsettling mood that could have made this an awesome supernatural thriller is mostly lacking. The majority of the scares are cheap shock tactics (the sudden musical sting, the face that jumps out of nowhere) and there is really nothing that lingers to disturb the viewer.
White Noise works best when it shows only brief glimpses of the supernatural and leaves things up to the imagination of the audience. But as the movie progresses, it starts to show more and more until, by the end, it shows too much. The central villains--a trio of malevolent spirits bent on torment--are a prime example: they are effective when you catch only fleeting looks at them, but by the anticlimactic ending, they are far too tangible and reeking of Hollywood special effects. The script's decision to introduce a more physical threat than "just ghosts" is also a letdown that unnecessarily comes out of nowhere.
I actually enjoyed the phony documentaries about electronic voice phenomenon that were created to promote the movie more than the movie itself. (Hopefully they'll be available on the eventual DVD.) Again, it was all about subtlety. One of the recordings in the promo had a girl asking, "Where's mom?" That simple phrase was easily more bothersome than the loud ghost threats we get in the film. If you're easily scared, I suppose White Noise could provide a few jolts to your system--but don't expect to become psychological unhinged by this flick.
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