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The year's most disturbing thriller explores the unsettling possibility that the dead can contact us…all we have to do is listen. When architect Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) loses his wife in a tragic accident, he turns to the shadowy, unnerving world of Electronic Voice Phenomenon - communication from beyond the grave. But as he begins to penetrate the mysteries of EVP, Jonathan makes a shocking discovery: once a portal to the other world is opened, there's no telling what will come through it.
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This is where we are introduced to "EVP" or "Electronic Voice Phenomenon". EVP is a "phenomenon" in which a person "hears the voices of the dead" with the aide of sophisticated audio equipment (or just a tape recorder).
In despair over his wife's disappearance and demise, he makes the acquaintance of an odd man, Raymond Price (Ian McNeice) who insists that his wife has tried to make contact with him through "recordings" he has heard. This man is clearly incautious and is either unaware or indifferent to the dangers this kind of experimentation can produce in a more orthodox spiritual sense. And pretty soon not only is Jonathan a true believer, he is feeding into every "message" he receives from the other side, believing wholeheartedly that Anna is dictating warnings, omens, prophecies to him that he must act on.
And some of them turn out to be accurate. He rescues a man dying in a car, nearly frozen to death, and finds the body of a man's wife. The man wisely enough thanks him and then violently rebukes him at the offer of "joining his sick f**king cult".
An entity begins to hunt Michael, and just about everything he does is cursed in one way or another. He does not heed anything, and this is a chief flaw in the movie: when his best friend, Sarah Tate (Deborah Kara Unger) is levitating on the ledge of a balcony as a result of Michael's continued delving into this dangerous process, he still does not take it as a sign that maybe he should at least slow down. The drive of his character is understandable as a result of losing his wife, but his complete lack of caution is not.
Believe whatever you want about EVP, this is one scary movie that should have gotten more attention. There are extras on the disc about EVP which feature "experts" in the field sharing their "recordings". They are so cocksure that they are tapping into the spirit world that I found it a bit over the top, but people interested might enjoy it. Recommended for the spooky film buff.
Sounds kind of cool and scary, right? Then you hear Pitch #2: "Michael Keaton plays a guy who realizes that he's receiving messages in white noise from people who live in his area who are about to die in some awful way. However, these messages are somehow coming to him from the near future, and he has the power to rush out and try to prevent tragedies... if he can decipher the clues in time." Wow, that sounds exciting too!
Yup, both of these concepts could have potentially become awesome thrillers. The problem is, the actual Michael Keaton movie "White Noise" is an ill-advised mashup of these two different plots, and the result, as you might expect, is mostly confusion.
This is a shame, because much of "White Noise" is suspenseful and rather creepy. Although things get off to a slow start, Keaton does a nice job playing a sympathetic character, and the film manages to draw the viewer's interest, up to a point. However, once the two concepts collide, bewilderment reigns supreme. The movie's internal logic starts changing often and unexpectedly, and the (SPOILER ALERT!) late introduction of a character who seemingly wandered into the movie off the set of a "Hostel" or "Saw" flick filming on a nearby soundstage only makes things worse. Keaton gamely tries to act like he's taking things seriously, but the movie increasingly goes off in so many different directions at once, it just becomes absurd.
As it stands, however, "White Noise" is still watchable for Keaton's performance, for the creepy stretches and scary moments, and for the intriguing possibilities of EVP in general. And the disc's extras are worth watching too... you get deleted scenes (including alternate versions with more graphic images), commentary, and some short documentaries featuring real-life EVP experts (they play several of the ghostly voices that they've allegedly recorded and demonstrate the basics of recording them). It's just too bad that the movie, ultimately, didn't realize that sometimes "less is more." If "White Noise" had narrowed its focus, it probably would have been a far more satisfying film.