Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice
Written by: Niall Johnson
Directed by: Geoffrey Sax
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and language
Running Time: 101
Date: 01/07/2005

White Noise (2004)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Ghost in the Machine

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

White Noise is yet another horror film that takes a potentiallyinteresting idea and crams it into an old, formula structure withabsolutely nothing in the way of surprise, fright or entertainment.

Michael Keaton stars as Jonathan Rivers, a successful architect who loses his second wife, the gorgeous and successful author Anna Rivers (Chandra West, The Salton Sea), to a terrible accident.

Months later, a mysterious man (Ian McNeice) approaches John, claiming to be an expert in EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), telling him that he has been receiving signals from Anna, via television and radio static. John becomes obsessed with listening to the static, searching for messages form Anna. But soon he finds himself in the middle of an entirely new mystery.

The problem is, White Noise doesn't make a lot of sense. Each time John makes a discovery, the film awkwardly steps all over the previous one. First the ghosts want John to help people, then live people are dying because of him, then he's helping them again.

The film also glosses over day-to-day details, such as John's relationship with his ex-wife -- who seems to swoop in every time he needs her to baby-sit for the weekend -- or his job, which seems to be able to operate without him for weeks at a time while he's parked in front of his computer monitors.

Geoffrey Sax, a television director who makes his big screen debut here owes a great deal to recent Asian horror films, like The Eye, a stylish chiller in which a woman starts seeing ghosts after retinal surgery. He fails to generate any suspense, falling back on Wes Craven-style, standard-issue jump-shocks, in which every time you see an empty spot in the frame, you can be sure a ghost is going to jump out. He also wraps the entire package in a kind of inhuman video twitch, perfected by David Fincher in Seven (1995) and most recently adapted in Gore Verbinski's remake of The Ring.

Michael Keaton once proved himself a wonderfully versatile actor, capable of comedy (Beetlejuice), dark drama (Batman, Clean and Sober), and even Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing). His career virtually ended in 1997; since then he has only been in very few movies, and most of them forgettable.

White Noise get credit for bringing Keaton back for a moment, but otherwise it's a waste of time.

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