Michael Keaton stars in a confused yet sporadically effective thriller that looks into the dangers of the phenomenon known as EVP.
After the death of his wife Anna, Jonathan Rivers (Keaton) is contacted by Electronic Voice Phenomenon specialist Raymond Price (Ian McNiece), who claims to have received messages from his recently deceased spouse. Initially sceptical, Jonathan visits Raymond to hear them for himself. Satisfied that Raymond is telling the truth, Jonathan falls into a deep obsession of hearing messages from ‘the other side’, and in the process discovers that not all voices are pleasant. And with a startling revelation that he can see faces of people before they die, aided by his dead wife, Jonathan attempts to save lives while a force he cannot stop works relentlessly to prevent him from doing so.
The film starts strongly, with an air of confidence in the story it wishes to tell. The opening 30 minutes are plausible (albeit conventional) enough, and tension bubbles consistently, with scenes containing threats of things to come. An hour in though, and the bubbles are now down to a simmer. No real attempt is made to elevate the atmosphere, and the promises made are left largely unfulfilled. The believable set up is all but forgotten when the film reaches its climax, and becomes ludicrously far fetched. It’s a shame, because for the most part the film relies on patience, replacing jump scares for genuinely creepy sequences. The final 10 minutes go against all of this, revealing a physical ‘monster’ and the film is worse off for it.
Michael Keaton is probably a bigger name than the film deserves, but is a little too enthusiastic about the role in places. It’s not as extreme, but think Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man and you’re on the right lines. Ian McNiece is a success as the avid EVP enthusiast Raymond Price, while Deborah Kara Unger uninspires as Sarah, another of Price’s clients. The biggest flaw with White Noise is that it doesn’t know what genre it wants to belong to. Exhibiting all the symptoms of a supernatural drama to begin with, it evolves to have romance dominate before finally concluding with tame horror. It occasionally merges these to form a weird horror/romance/drama hybrid and the effects are confusing, especially in the finale.
One theme it does touch upon successfully however, is the desperation that comes with contacting a loved one after they’ve gone. As crazy as the idea of setting a tape to record the ‘white noise’ of a TV sounds, it’s not such a stretch to believe that people would resort to such actions after a sudden loss of life. As previously stated, and while exaggerated, Keaton manages to make you feel sympathy for his cause – you watch the fuzzy screens with him, hoping he finds the comfort he’s searching for.
The ‘villains’ of the movie are never fully explained; they appear as three shadowy figures, and provide the creeps. One particular scene in Jonathan’s apartment is especially spine tingling, as the presences glide past the window, silhouetted. It seems that the three demons were attracted to Jonathan due to his experimentation with EVP, but this is not explicitly revealed and frustratingly, we’re left in the dark as to why they’re after him and who they really are.
White Noise is the definition of a throwaway horror/thriller. It will entertain for it’s runtime, but due to it’s tame scares, slight overacting and undeveloped antagonist, there’s nothing here that leaves a lasting impression.