When Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) loses his wife Anna (Chandra West) to what appears to be a freak drowning accident, he is utterly devastated. Then, several months later, he is approached by a man (Ian McNeice) who claims to have a recording of Anna's voice - a recording obtained from beyond the grave via the static noise of an ordinary tape recorder, a phenomenon known as EVP. Sceptical at first, Jonathan soon finds himself drawn into an extraordinary world where the supernatural and the real mix with frightening consequences.
If you ever needed proof that a movie can be far more than the sum of its parts, just watch "White Noise". With its ridiculous premise, illogical plot and decidedly ordinary acting, the film should be nothing more than a third rate attempt at a horror film, full of cheap camera tricks and loud bangs. But, against all odds, the movie not only holds your attention, it regularly makes your skin crawl and even gets you to jump out of your seat in fright once or twice. The movie may lack all logic - but then again so does our fear of ghosts.
The movie's effectiveness stems largely from director Geoffrey Sax's understanding of his medium. With no previous experience in the genre, Sax seems to have an innate sense of how to magnify the dread of a scene using sound, camera work and, above all, timing.
It's a good thing Sax has such unexpected talents since he isn't given much help by his cast. Michael Keaton spends so much of the movie with his mouth hanging open in a clumsy expression of horror that you begin to worry that he has some kind of muscular ailment. He spends the rest of the time looking consternated, rather like he has a carrot lodged somewhere uncomfortable, or like he has just wandered off the set of "Beetle Juice" and is looking for his morning latte. He's still a charismatic performer, but he's on autopilot for this one. Deborah Kara Unger is effective enough as Keaton's side-kick, but you can't help feel she was chosen for her unusual looks and not her talent. The wonderful Ian McNeice oozes warmth and charm, but his cameo as the EVP expert is all too brief.
Watching "White Noise" you sense that the filmmakers were aiming to emulate the stylish creepiness and intelligence of Gore Verbinski's "The Ring". But, sadly for Sax, the underlying structure of his own film is just too flawed for the end result to challenge that modern horror classic. You can't make chocolate cake out of lemons, but at least Sax has enough presence of mind to make lemonade.- Alistair Fairweather
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