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White Noise

White Noise on DVD

If you live in the movie world and your life is perfect, you have to know something will come along and put an end to the happiness.

Such is the case in White Noise. Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) is an architect with a beautiful new wife, a big house, and a massive grin on his face all the time. But when his wife disappears mysteriously, he is understandably broken up (although we barely ever actually see him so, the point comes across).

Then a few weird things start happening. Random knocks on the door in the middle of the night, radios turning themselves on and emitting nothing but really loud static, strange men following him around, and other typical thriller movie stuff.

Upon approaching the strange man, the man tells Jonathan that he is an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) nut. EVP, according to the film, allows deceased folks to make contact with their loved ones via white noise. The man has an entire room filled with equipment with which to decipher the voices, but he meets an unfortunate end, after which Jonathan decides to take over. He can’t help but feel his wife is trying to tell him something, and refuses to rest until he figures it out.

This film requires its lead actor to do nothing but sit at a desk and look at computer/TV screens for extended periods of time - a challenge to one's thespian skills. And, after a far-too-lengthy absence from the Hollywood A-list, Michael Keaton took the job as that actor. Few people could pull off such a difficult role with such ease, but the ex-Batman manages to somehow pull us along through the relatively uninteresting scenes and make us believe in his cause.

But other than Mr. Keaton and a couple of pretty good jumpy moments, White Noise just never really makes it. It has the atmosphere just right, but the plot is too shallow and never really explained sufficiently, and the ending is extremely unsatisfying. Plus, too much of the movie has characters just sitting and staring at screens with nothing actually happening, so you can’t help but begin to check your watch at a certain point.

White Noise has a couple of good scares, but as far as horror movies go, you can do much better. Although it’s almost worth it to see Michael Keaton working again.


On DVD, the movie is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1. Picture looks pretty good, with no dust or grain or halos on the actors. A lot of shots have us looking at white noise to see the “ghosts” or whatnot, and we almost never have trouble figuring out what it is we’re looking at. The detail in such shots is very well done. Audio is typical of such a film, only using the surrounds to occasionally make us jump out of our seats. Except that White Noise takes it to the next level: it shuts down all the speakers to build tension, and then all five of them spring to life with such intensity that it can actually be annoying.

Director Geoffrey Sax and Michael Keaton provide an audio commentary, and while it’s not the best ever recorded, it’s nice to hear what Keaton thinks about his first mainstream movie in too long. We learn a bit about the background of EVP, and Keaton talks about the difficulties of not overacting in such a film.

Three featurettes examine the real-life phenomenon of Electronic Voice Phenomenon. Some EVP experts take us to some supposedly haunted locations and record some white noise in the supposedly haunted rooms. When the recordings are played back, they point out the ghostly voices that “clearly” say things like “hello” or “get out of my house,” but that we noticed could also have been mistaken for complete gibberish. It also gives us a lesson in how to record our own white noise, which may be beneficial for scaring people who’ve seen the film.

White Noise, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
98 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Michael Keaton, Deborah Kara Unger, Chandra West and Ian McNeice
Produced by Paul Brooks, Shawn Williamson
Written by Niall Johnson, directed by Geoffrey Sax


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