White Noise

The Spoony One | Aug 11 2009 | more notation(s) | 
White Noise

A Review by Noah Antwiler

Lately, the movies i've been watching have asked rather inane questions, like "What if there were ghosts in your mobile phone?" "What if there was a ghost in your television?" "What if the majority of Americans were sick and disturbed enough to put a Jennifer Lopez movie at #1 in the box office?"

It turns out that they are.

White Noise asks the question "What if there was a ghost in my radio?" It's based around an actual occult phenomenon known as EVP, where it's believed that the paranormal world can interact in a limited way with untuned electronic devices. In this way, people claim, ghosts can pass on messages to you through static. The entire thing is horseshit, but I don't deny that the whole thing is in theory, creepy, and the previews for the movie were a good hook, by showcasing nothing more than the phenomenon itself.

Michael Keaton plays humble architect Jonathan Rivers, a man who owns a veritable palace of a house. I'm ignorant of how much architects really make, but I'm assuming his successful author wife was more responsible for paying for Wayne Manor, here. Anyway, the police find the wife's body in the river, and Rivers has to cope with the loss of his wife. That is, until she starts contacting him through his telephone and spooking the fudge out of him on his radio.

Rivers meets fellow EVP believer Mr. Price, and is introduced into the world of electronic voice phenomenon, which consists mainly of staring blankly at the snow of a television tuned to channel 502,401, taping it, and watching it until your eyes melt from your head.

This moment defined my life.

Rivers has a lot of success contacting the spirit world, and soon he's receiving messages from his wife, and many other spirits who say rather cryptic and inane things like "Susie Tomlinson, smile!" and "Sarah, yes!" I'm not really an expert on the paranormal, but don't you think that if there is an afterlife, the spirits of the dead have slightly better things to do that jerk around in your house trying to communicate with you through the static of your radio while you're trying to listen to the Howard Stern show, saying incomprehensibly stupid things over and over again? I rather prefer to think that the dead are either playing shuffleboard with the Big Bopper, or watching Hillary Duff in the shower.

If I ever die, I'm gonna try to haunt people by burning strange messages into people's break through their toasters. Or maybe I'll just spook you the normal way. I have a lot of things I could say, I just have to decide what route to take: the helpful ("Masturbation is a way bigger sin than you think up there."), the derrogatory ("egomann loves the cock in his mouth"), the frustrating ("The correct religion is *KCCCCCHHHHHH*"), the referential-to-a-movie ("My god, it's full of stars!"), the confusing ("Pancakes!"), the annoying ("Get closer... closer... closer... AAAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!!"), or the outright insane ("Spandex, Stalin, Purple Oompa-Loompa, I need scissors!").

I know. I was too lazy to take scren captures.

The scares in this movie are mostly cheap, but I didn't even mind that so much here, because the notion of EVP is that it's meant to be very sudden and surprising. Still, there's a real dearth of excitement and scares here. Keaton does a great job, and I can't really fault anyone's acting here. Where it gets interesting is when he starts getting messages from overtly threatening ghosts who say things like "She's OURS now." and "BASTARD!! BASTARD! EAT THIS, PIG!" It's a rather interesting direction on the story, where we think most ghosts who stick around are here to say generally nice things, but there are some who are still terribly pissed-off beyond the grave.

But is it enough to make a movie? Not really. It's just not nearly as scary as it thinks it is, because as spooky as the voices might want to be, they can't REALLY hurt you. The movie has to make up B.S. ways for the ghosts to be able to cross over, and that's when the movie loses what little credibility it had. The ending is utterly ridiculous, and isn't even so much of a twist ending but more of a half-thought-out idea that someone should have shot down long ago.

It would have been better if White Noise were simply a straight up documentary on "actual" EVP phenomenon. Hell, you could have made it as fake as you wanted, but it's just not enough to act as a clothesline for a ghost thriller plot. The phenomenon itself is the real scary factor here. If the ghosts have something to say, I'd rather hear an undramatized version of what they're talking about.

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