Keaton Deals with his own Beetle Juice
If I could take the direction and production of "White Noise" and place them with another horror movie I would be a happy chappy because from a technical point of view director Geoffrey Sax has delivered a good horror movie. There is an air of tension which makes a sudden noise, a shift of shadows or a flicker of light put you on edge and it is great. Unfortunately the storyline isn't and I am not just on about the concept of communicating with the dead via electronic equipment but the way this idea twists around to being something different to how it started. Maybe those who believe in EVP (Electronic voice phenomenon) will enjoy it more and be sucked into this side of things but if you don't then you are left with the technical exercise in making you scared.
Jonathan Rivers' (Michael Keaton - First Daughter) perfect life suddenly comes crashing down when his pregnant wife dies in an accident. Struggling to move on he is approached by Raymond Price (Ian McNeice - Day of the dead) a paranormal expert who specialises in EVP and says that his dead wife has contacted him. Sceptical Jonathan goes along and hears the voice in the static which Raymond has recorded. Obsessed by this contact Jonathan throws himself into the world of EVP but in doing so opens himself up to things he would never have expected, things which have a destructive power.
It's such a cliche, "White Noise" opens with some domestic bliss as Jonathan and his second wife are so in love, she is pregnant and things are going so well, sure things she will die then. And she does, although we have an element of maybe she's been abducted because the body doesn't show up for a few weeks although when it does the police say it was an accident. All of which is the build up to Jonathan being approached by the ever so polite Raymond Price who says he has had a communication from the dead Anna via EVP.
Now this is where the first problem with "White Noise" lies because it needs you to believe in EVP and if you don't it needs to convince you that maybe there is a possibility that EVP is real, as in the dead have been contacting Raymond. But it doesn't convince you, not once does it make it seem believable that these faint voices and shadowy images amongst the static could be real. And so for those who are sceptics are left not so much laughing at the whole EVP thing but finding it a bit too far fetched.
Whether or not you believe what follows is good because Jonathan becomes obsessed, so obsessed that following an incident sets up his own EVP system in his own minimalist home, it looks good. And so we have Jonathan spending every minute tuning in to static in the hope he will pick up a voice or see an image hopefully that of Anna but in doing so experiences a lot more, something which turns everything he thinks he is doing on its head. Okay so it is far fetched, in fact it is beyond far fetched and rather than what is going on becoming frightening it becomes ludicrous with huge plot holes ripping the story apart.
And it is a shame that the storyline ends up being poor because as I already mentioned director Geoffrey Sax has done a terrific job of delivering a technically effective frightener. He really creates a sense of tension especially in the scenes where Jonathan is in his white room surrounded by monitors, listen to every crackle of static. And so when something happens, be it a sudden voice which interrupts the monotonous hiss or a flash of flight as the dancing pixels momentarily burst into life it makes you jump. Some may say well it's not very scary because there is no gore and that's true there isn't but for purists the electrifying tension is first rate.
And what is also first rate is Michael Keaton who as Jonathan really sells those moments of sudden activity. Watching him almost hypnotised as he listens to static only to be thrown back when he hears a voice is terrific as is the sense of panic it causes him especially when he comes to realise things are not as they seem. It is Keaton and the direction of Sax which makes "White Noise" worth watching and sadly the rest of the cast which includes Deborah Kara Unger and Ian McNeice end up background noise.
What this all boils down to is that "White Noise" ends up a barely average horror/thriller purely because the storyline is not strong enough and doesn't convince those who don't believe in EVP that maybe it could be true. It is purely because as a technical exercise in creating tension and frights Geoffrey Sax does a great job and Michael Keaton sells every one of those moments that it is worth watching.