Turn the ‘White Noises’ off
Beginning with 2002’s highly successful “The Ring,” there’s been a near-constant stream of PG-13 films that make a stylized attempt at inducing terror via the paranormal or supernatural without crossing the lines of the gruesome horror/slasher movies that rose in popularity over the previous two decades.
It’s not a bad trend per se, but the problem with most of them (last year’s “The Forgotten” and “The Grudge” come to mind) is that of plausibility — and weak scripts that underestimate the intellect of the audience.
The latest attempt to cash in on this trend is “White Noise,” and it falls into the same trap, lacking even the style to go with its rather unoriginal substance. Though its premise relies on communication with the dead via “EVP” (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), we really don’t learn much about the process except that the static-filled noise in between radio stations can contain warnings from the afterlife.
To its discredit, the film carves no new technological territory. So by comparison the scenes from the original “Poltergeist” that illustrate (to great effect) similar encounters with the other side, seem light years ahead — not a good sign since that film was made long before cell phones, MP3 players and compact discs existed — let alone digital film techniques that should give “White Noise” a huge advantage.
Admittedly, it’s good to see 53-year-old Michael Keaton back on screen after another of his mysterious absences. He stars as architect Jonathan Rivers, who loses his much younger and gorgeously, unscholarly looking wife, novelist Anna (Chandra West), in a car accident. He’s approached by EVP specialist Raymond (Ian MacNeice), and together they stay up late listening to static and the moans and only occasionally (when it befits the plot) discernible promptings of the dead.
Though it’s easy to root for Keaton, an actor who, regardless of the role, seems witty, his character acts predictably here. He’s constantly looking for clues late at night, alone, in the scariest parts of town. There are some nice jump-inducing moments — a requirement for this type of film. But nothing in “White Noise” is as scary as Tangina, the little medium who coaxed 6-year-old Heather O’Rourke back into her mother’s arms (“Don’t go into the light!”) from the spirit world in Spielberg’s thriller. That was real, man.
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, language.