White Noise (2005)
By: Devon B. on October 17, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Universal (Australia). Region 2 & 4 PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1. English, French Subtitles. 93 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Geoffrey Sax
Starring: Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice
Screenplay: Niall Johnson
Country: USA
White Noise is a new film centering on EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. The basic idea behind this is that if you make a recording where there is some kind of background or white noise, dead people might rearrange the noise on your recording so that it sounds like they're talking. Or, to simplify, dead people are talking on your tape when you play it back.

In White Noise, Michael Keaton has it all. He's presumably rich, married to a bestselling author, has a magnificent home, a good career, and his wife has just fallen pregnant. His world comes crashing down when she goes missing. Then she stops being missing and is just a corpse.

Keaton is tracked down by a man who claims Keaton's wife is in contact with him from "the other side" via EVP. Keaton gives in to curiosity and investigates the whole EVP thing, but is left on his own to interpret the messages from the dead when his EVP mentor is mysteriously killed.

White Noise benefits immensely from fabulous cinematography. Interesting angles, beautifully composed shots, great use of scenery and props, this film looks wonderful. In keeping with the theme, the visuals have an electronic feel, and many scenes are framed to look like they're taking place within a screen. I found the story highly interesting, but unfortunately the ending is a let down. After a deliberate, steady build up, the climax feels tacked on and rushed, and doesn't gel well with the rest of the film. The ending also doesn't make any sense, which didn't help. I still found White Noise to be very good, and I didn't even mind that it's essentially a jump scare movie. The most remarkable thing about that is that Keaton is given warnings about upcoming events, so the movie totally telegraphs its jump moments, but this doesn't diminish their impact. As tribute to their effectiveness, one scene made my wife scream so loudly in the cinema that a woman three rows back jumped out of her seat.
Video
As expected the transfer is excellent. The film is presented at 2.35:1 and the print is super sharp. The colours are rich when they are present, but they fade out intentionally as the film progresses and Keaton gets drawn into the dreary world of the dead.
Audio
Audio is available in either English or French 5.1 mixes. The English track is clear, but the film is about "white noise" so there's a lot of deliberate distortions and such. So the film's audio is well represented, but doesn't always sound good. There are subs available in both English and French for both the film and the commentary, and an extra subtitle option that provides French translations of written English words that appear on screen.
Extra Features
A few years ago, there was this thing on the net where you were supposed to look at a picture on your computer screen trying to find what was wrong with the image. After a few moments, at the time when most people had got their nose up against the monitor, a "scary" picture would pop up accompanied by a shriek. White Noise would have been the perfect DVD to have a menu like that, but it doesn't.

White Noise's extras begin with an 8-½ minute making contact featurette. It's a bunch of EVP experts not really explaining much, and saying there's not much to explain since EVP is a "mystery." The featurette is scored like it's a spooky topic, but the EVPs are presented as a positive means of communication with those departed.

Another short featurette is a how to on making your own EVP recordings. I found the examples in this section to be unconvincing.

A longer featurette revolves around EVP sessions. It plays like a segment of Unsolved Mysteries, and actually made the whole thing seem even more iffy to me.

Deleted scenes are available with commentary from director Geoffrey Sax, but the only ones of interest are the extended violent bits that were cut to get a PG-13 rating.

There's also a commentary with the Sax and Keaton. They tend to focus on technical aspects. The gaps in the commentary are frequent and can last for several seconds at a time. White Noise is an interesting film with interesting subject matter, but the commentary is fairly dull and most of the pair's attempts to inject humour fall flat. Worst of all, Keaton comes across as little more than a yes man at times. The track picks up once the EVPs are introduced, which is a ways in, with Keaton becoming more involved and thankfully funnier. Keaton goes to New Zealand (really) about 70 minutes in, so the last scenes just feature the director.

The disc does not contain the film's trailer, which is too bad because it was pretty cool and featured EVPs not found in the film.
The Verdict
White Noise is a very good film that overcomes most of the plot holes the ending presents. It's the best mainstream horror flick we've had in awhile. This DVD may have benefited from some tweaking, but it is certainly a decent effort.
Movie Score
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