‘White Noise’ is just a lot of static

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‘White Noise’ is just a lot of static

By all means see “White Noise” if you’re curious to know what a horror movie would be like that mostly consisted of a guy looking at static on a TV screen.
“Mostly” is an exaggeration; TV-staring takes up maybe 5 percent of the screen time. But it’s a long 5 percent. Poor Michael Keaton, a nice guy for whom one wants better things, stars in this low-rent dud as a grieving widower trying to make contact with his wife “on the other side.” That’s not a new idea. “White Noise’s” innovation, if it merits being called one, is that the ghosts communicate through radio and TV static.
Apparently, in the real world, there’s a branch of crackpotism that believes in this. They call it E.V.P., for “electronic voice phenomena.” The term was coined in the 1970s, when, if memory serves, a slice of the American public was even more credulous about spirits, flying saucers and the like than now.
The trailer for “White Noise” tries to whet people’s interest by convincing them that this is an actual scientific phenomenon. A title card at the end of the movie, in fact, solemnly informs us that in one of every 12 “documented” cases of E.V.P., the ghost is hostile. No source is given for that statistic, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that the authority in question lives in his mom’s basement.
We meet Keaton on the morning when his glowing, loving wife (Chandra West) tells him that she’s pregnant, which is evidence enough that we’re never going to see her again. In the weeks before her body is found, Keaton finds himself being followed around Vancouver (that’s where it was filmed, at least) by a fat guy (Ian McNiece). On being confronted, the fat guy tells Keaton that his wife is dead, and that she’s been trying to contact him. Keaton tells him to stay out of his life, but hangs onto his business card.
What usually happens next in this sort of movie is that the hero goes through a period of denial about the supernatural phenomenon in question, until the mounting evidence forces him to believe. Keaton’s character comes around in about 10 minutes. Soon, having been schooled in E.V.P.-monitoring by the fat guy, he’s staying up all night staring at several blank TV screens, waiting for a whisper or a shadow that he can convince himself is his dead wife. He starts screwing up at work from the fatigue, and almost causes a head-on collision.
It would be nice to report (or even hint) that it’s a buildup to some big, juicy twist. Unfortunately, this movie has the deadly dull earnestness of something made by a true believer. A telltale sign comes when circumstances force Keaton to consult a psychic other than the fat man, and by gosh, she turns out to be the real thing too. Are there no fake psychics in Vancouver?
Talented filmmakers have done very scary things with blurry video images (track down a 1987 John Carpenter movie called “Prince of Darkness”), but I’m afraid all we get here is... blurry video images. I will admit to sort of instinctively half-covering my eyes a couple of times, but only because it was clear that we were within seconds of a jump-out-and-go-boo kind of scare. But the main thing I remember feeling is a desire to look at my watch.


White Noise
Thriller / English
97 min.
Now playing


by David Moll
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