Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton, "First Daughter") has only just learned that his second wife Anna (Chandra West, "The Salton Sea"), a successful author about to publish her latest book, is expecting their first child when she doesn't return home one night after meeting a girlfriend. A strange man tells Jonathan that his wife is dead and has been in contact with him, but not until the police confirm they have discovered her body does Jonathan visit Raymond Price (Ian McNeice, "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason") and learn about how the dead speak through "White Noise."
The trailer for "White Noise" explains E.V.P., Electronic Voice Phenomena, as recorded images and voices of the dead, as well as providing a few chilling examples, before giving a few perfunctory glimpses of the actual movie it is promoting. It is noteworthy that the only chilling bits of the ad are not included in the film, only the film's accompanying featurette, a two minute forty-four second piece that is far more effective at raising goose bumps than anything in television director Geoffrey Sax's nonsensical melange of "Dragonfly" and the technologies of recent Asian horror films.
Jonathan begins his day with a skip in his step, asking his secretary to purchase a bunch of lilies (the flower of death!) and champagne...er make that Belgian chocolates. He arrives home to discover a message ("White Noise" is stuffed full of voice mails) from Anna saying that she will be home late. At 2:30 a.m., the kitchen clock stops and Jon's radio refuses to stay tuned. Some time later, Jonathan, who has been pointedly shown living behind a security gate, hears a knock at his front door and opens it to be met by two policemen bearing unwanted news.
Soon thereafter, Jonathan is knocking on the lily-etched front door of Raymond Price, who plunges Jonathan into the recordings of the departed and shares a snippet from Anna (there is never any explanation given as to how Raymond was able to connect a call to 'Jonathan' to this *particular* Jonathan). When Raymond leaves the room, the lights flicker and three apparitions resembling a ghostly Blue Man Group drift threateningly towards Jon who is unaware of their presence because he is startled by the agitated growls emanating from the popping speakers. Raymond returns and sweeps the nastiness under the rug with some tut-tuts and a tap on the delete button. A blind medium warns Jonathan that he is 'meddling' and should stop his E.V.P. investigations, but Jonathan is hooked, even after he finds Raymond dead amidst his equipment. Working with another of Raymond's clients, Sarah Tate (Deborah Kara Unger, "A Love Song for Bobby Long"), Jonathan discovers that some of the messages he has been getting are coming from the pre-deceased.
Screenwriter Niall Johnson appears to be jumping on the Asian horror bandwagon with all his high-tech ghost gadgetry, but he favors cheap 'gotchas' over structured storytelling and, even worse, cannot resist the urge to throw in a serial killer for good measure. Motifs, such as the 2:30 time, continue to spring up with no discernible reason for being (the time of Anna's death? the time Blue Man Group can cross over?). Even the E.V.P. concept is muddled by such things as Jonathan receiving calls from Anna's cell phone, an idea transplanted from "The Grudge."
Michael Keaton, whose last significant role was in the 2002 HBO production "Live from Baghdad," has so much more to offer than this dubious outing. Kara Unger's vaguely alien appearance helps create the illusion of a spooky setting. More significant than either of the stars, though, is the work of production designer Michael S. Bolton ("Final Destination 2"), who houses the protagonist in a minimalist industrial complex with units resembling the grainy monitor images that fascinate Jonathan.
Electronic Voice Phenomena sounds like an intriguing subject, but this movie is not a film that explores it. "White Noise" has all the chills of a refrigerator's hum.
Robin did not see this film.
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