White Noise

In White Noise, the latest Hollywood dead wife reclamation project (Dragonfly, Mothman Prophecies), Michael Keaton stars as Jonathan Rivers, an architect with an angelic, internationally renowned author wife; a cute, pre-precocious five-year-old son; and a seemingly plastic, picture-perfect life.

Since White Noise is a horror-thriller, it’s only a matter of time before Rivers’s world comes crashing down, but not until writer Niall Johnson and director Geoffrey Sax hammer home how much the man with a plan has to lose. I guess they were hoping that a bigger set-up would provide for a bigger emotional payoff, but anyone with a ticket tucked in their pocket knows better. Unless the family is real and engaging, like the para-normally challenged Freeling’s from Poltergeist, all that set-up is a waste of time.

After offering us an extended portrait of the Rivers family, we are then treated to a rude awakening. Wife Anna (Chandra West) is missing. Time passes, days, and then weeks. Then more bad news. Her body is found. That leaves Jonathan and his son alone to put back the pieces of their shattered lives. They move away hoping to find some peace and serenity, but all Jonathan gets is static. Literally.

He thinks it’s interference or power lines, but a stranger knows better. He tells Jonathan that the static, also known as White Noise, can be used by the dead to communicate with the living. Skeptical, Jonathan dismisses the stranger, until a series of events lead him to believe that his wife is trying to make a connection. Hope they have roaming charges, because my calling plan doesn’t have a touch out and reach someone from beyond the dead option.

Pretty soon Jonathan is a believer in Electronic Voice Phenomenon, and obsessively invests in trying to contact his wife. That means reaching out to others who have experienced the same phenomenon, including bookstore owner Sarah Tate (Deborah Kara Unger), who is in contact with her dead fiancé. You can’t blame her. It’s the only time he’s been stiff without Viagra.

Bad joke, bad movie, one that takes almost every cue from Poltergeist. Spirits communicating through the static on electronic appliances? Poltergeist. The protagonist ultimately realizing that the static also contains the presence of evil spirits? Poltergeist. When the filmmakers are done scrap mining Poltergeist, they turn White Noise into a paranormal detective story that feels like a different movie.

Keaton looks weary to the point of boredom, the rest of the cast react rather than act, while the filmmakers just keep shoving them back into the middle of a no-win boxing match.

What’s The Frequency?

Talk about getting your signals crossed.


Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice, Sarah Strange. Directed by Geoffrey Sax. Rated PG-13. 101 Minutes.


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